tv U.S. Senate CSPAN September 13, 2011 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT
the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask consent the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. morning business is closed. under the previous order the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to h.j. res. 66 which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to the consideration of house joint resolution 66 approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in the burmese freedom and democracy act of 2003. the senatorthe presiding officee senator from. mr. leahy: mr. president, i've spoken to so many of my colleagues. i know i have with my good friend, one of the most distinguished members of this body, the senator from montana, and others about what's happened in vermont. we're a little state with
660,000 people. we're a state that has sent volunteers all over the country when people have been hit by earthquakes and tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding. but now vermont has been hit. i was born in vermont. my family came to vermont in the 1800's. the only thing that could even begin to match what we've seen were the horrible floods of 1927. i wasn't alive then, but i remember the stories my paerpbts told me -- my parents told me. in my lifetime we've never seen anything like this, as vermont continues to grapple with the aftermath of tropical storm irene, it's all vermonters joining. it doesn't make any difference whether you're a republican or democrat. i'd like to call to the senate's attention today the severe and
stiff damage that -- extensive done to our state's transportation infrastructure, our roads and bridges, how they're washed out. here's a few of the scenes of the destruction. this was a main highway, mr. president. this was a main highway. you can see one lane here. see one lane here. and look what happened. it doesn't pick up again until over here. that was a highway. that had been used for decades, route 100. it's just south of plymouth. plymouth, vermont, is where calvin coolidge was born. actually he was spending time there with his father when he got news he had suddenly become president and was sworn in by deputy sheriff -- no sworn in by his father.
the deputy sheriff, who thought they may need security, so he stood there with a pitchfork in one hand and a lantern in the other. but this photo just shows you what is happening. we tried to build a temporary bridge up there. as you know, from a northern state, mr. president, we're going to have snow in vermont in a matter of weeks. and of course companies stopped making asphalt early in november. this is a photo i took. i took from my helicopter. it is a major east-west, classic vermont. again, look at this. you can't see one of the lanes of the road. it would have gone just like this, but it's gone and look how deep. that's because this river moved from where it had never been before and just tore it out. governor shulman, the governor of our state, was touring by
helicopter immediately after this. we were trying to see how much damage. we were along with the head of our national guard because many places we went, it was the only place you could get into them was by helicopter. we told the people we will help. now this third one -- this is the new england central rail line, in central vermont, that hosts amtrak's vermonter train. you can actually get on the vermonter here in washington and take it to new york and then go youp through new englandup to nw york. i've taken it several times. they've repaired it to mint condition. now look at it. sunk out from beneath t that's a pretty horrific thing. and this shot was taken along
vermont route 30 in gentleman neigh cay, jamaica, vermont, or what's left of it. this is while rains from the remnants of hurricane lee fell in vermont. we just got hit and hit and hit up there. you can see work crews trying desperately to stay ahead of the rising waters. and some of them frankly, mr. president, are risking their lives to do that. and i might say, in that regard, we've had people to come in to help our highway. i told the two senators from maine yesterday, they had highway construction people from maine, schug some on vacation, came down to help. the response is, you help us, we'll help you. mr. president, you -- you know rural america. and you know we pitch in to try to help each other. but, unfortunately, this is the tip of the iceberg. roads bridges, and rail lines,
all over the state were wiped out. i apologize to my colleagues for being emotional. but this is my state. this is my home. it's the home of my an ssess terse -- an ssesssters. and we have seen flooding in more than 300 roads and towns. they've stranded people in a dozen towns for days. damage to the state's federal aid roads and bridges will exceed half a billion dollars in our rural state. that's going to take years and years to recover. it's been extremely difficult to move emergency supplies and billing materials around. some of the washingtoned-out roads have gaping gullies in the middle. therthat are 30 feet or more de. you can't just drive a truck over that. and some of the reopened roads and bridges aren't recommended for heavy traffic. the consequences have been harsh. reserve defntses are forced to
-- residents are forced to make a dire to the nearest grocery store or doctor on mountain roads, many of them dirt roads. businesses are struggling to reopen, rehire their people but then find new customers. schools have been forced to remain closed until repairs are made and children are wondering, adding to the trauma of what they've seen, they're wondering, when are we going back to the normalcy of going 0 school? and tieforts are worrying about traveling to vermont this fall to see the foliage or this winter to do some skiing, matters that are major, major industry in our state. the other construction season in new york is fast approaching. as i mentioned earlier, by november theritwill be too cold. snow and ice will cover many roads leaving towns dangerously
isolated. my home is safe, but i live on a denied-end dirt road, it is two miles to the nearest paved road. i know how easily these dirt roads can be disrupted. it has hoppe happened to me, nos time, but it has happened to other vermonters not as for the navment i do applaud the vermont agency of transportation. vermont national guard can't get enough applause. their work crews and guardsmen from states all around the country, because they've moved quickly to make emergency road repairs, install temporary bridges. one town that general dubie and i had to helicopter in -- it it wases the only way to get there. these are lifelines to the hardest-hit communities and they are during summer and early fall weather. we need to make permanent r
repairs as soon as possible. many of the roads will be impassable during the winter and cut off many parts of my state. given the breadth and irene's destruction, we have to ensure that fema and the department of transportation have all the resources they immediate to help our citizens in their desperate time of need. the other night the president addressed the congress and the nation on the floor of the house of representatives. on the way in, he leaned over and said, i'm thinking of your people in vermont. that means a lot. and i do applaud him for issuing the emergency declaration very, very quickly. then when we needed to make an adjustment to it, doing that. but we have to replenish the fema disaster relief fund ant the federal highway emergency
road fund, both of which are at dangerously low levels now. not just for vermont but for every other state, every remember state that has been hit with the same kind of problems. without supplemental funding to these and the other emergency accounts, vermont and all the the other 49 states with ongoing federal disasters are not going to have the resources to rebuild. mr. president, americans should be worried about americans. the kind of money we're talking about we throw away in iraq and afghanistan in a week's time. and we do it on a credit card and we say we don't have to pay for t now we have someone say, well, if we're going to help americans, we ought to find out how can we pay for it? can we take away from education? medical research? from housing? mr. president, let's start thinking about america. we saw what the billions, eventually trillions we're
spending trying to rebuild iraq and afghanistan. we see how much that's appreciated. these are americans who do appreciate and need the help. mr. president, let us come home, let us take care of the needs of americans? there is so much on the line for so many. it would be harmful to play politics with disaster relief. we've never done it before. and i was heartened as i came into one town badly damaged. i got an e-mail from a very conservative republican senator who said, you helped us when our state was hit. what can we do to help your state? that's the kind of bipartisanship that preens and democrats have done in the past to come together. thousands of american families and businesses have been devastated by an unprecedented series of floods, tornadoes,
hurricanes, and other natural disasters. people are hurting out there. they are not thinking about democrats versus republicans or republicans versus democrats. or red states versus blue states. they're saying, we are americans. we help everybody out. can we at least help ourselves? they're desperate for a helping hand from their fell will he americans. we are one nation. we've traditionally come to the aid of our fellow americans in times of need. in my 37 years in the united states senate, we have always dealt with disaster bills together. we haven't cared whether it was a republican state or democratic state, a republican president or democratic president. we've worked across the aisle in a spirit of bipartisanship in the best frs of america, in the best tradition of our country p as a nation, can we afford to toss that tradition and cooperation overboard? it's unconscionable the small number decided to inject politics and political point-scoring into a situation
that's already so difficult and so laden with grim realities for so many of our fellow citizens. go and talk to a farmer who has seen his herd decimated and tell them that. go and see a small business owner who is a major employer in a small town and who's saying, i don't know how i can keep hiring these people. go and tell a child who's asked their parents, when will the road be done so that we can go to school or visit grandma. tell them -- tell them. so leader reid is right to bring the emergency disaster relief passage to the floor. it will give aid to all 50 states suffering from the effects of unprecedented natural as does terms of the i state the obvious when i say we need republican cooperation to get this is urgent job done. i encourage my colleagues to end the shameful filibuster of this
essential disaster relief bill. let us proceed to a full debate on how to help our fellow americans. our fellow americans as quickly as we can. mr. president, i've taken up a lot of time of the senate. before i yield the floor, i have nine unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent these requests be agreed to and the requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until 2:15 p.m.
meantime the house is taking up legislation extending programs and funding structures for the federal aviation administration along with some service transportation provisions with current faa authorization expiring this coming friday, the senate is expected to act on that bill upon house approval. see live coverage of the senate when they return here on c-span2. also on the hill today, the senate finance committee continues a series of hearings on ideas for changing the u.s. tax code. they will hear testimony from former fed chair alan greenspan, business roundtable president john engler and other policy advisers. the committee on fiscal responsibility and economic growth will examine how tax code changes could be a part of deficit reduction efforts. live coverage of that at 2:00 p.m. eastern on our companion network, c-span3
>> any given night in america more than 640,000 men, women and children are without housing. >> you're right. if we have a problem, we probably have a family, a network, a net work of friends. a network of maybe a church or a school or, we have people who will hold us up if we fall down and homeless person has lost all of those contacts. >> i think the most common stereotype is that the folks are homeless because they're not trying hard. that they're lazy or victims of their own lack of initiative. >> so should the federal government spend our tax money to help these people? >> i think there is definitely a important role for the government to play in ending poverty and ending homelessness. some people feel like the
government should stay out of social service work and the churches should be doing it all or people should just be on their own and there should not be help for them anyway. i really don't believe that. >> that is one of the winners from last year's studentcam competition. you can see the videos online at studentcam.org. the topic, the constitution and you. get more info at studen studentcamp.org. today, secretary of state hillary clinton said that no embassy personnel were injured during the attacks today on the u.s. embassy in afghanistan. her comments came at the beginning of this news conference, releasing a updated congressional mandated report on religious freedom around the world. later assistant secretary of state michael posner and international ambassador for religious freedom susan cook johnson took questions from reporters. this is about 35 minutes.
>> good morning, everyone. here with me today are michael posner, our assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor. suzanne johnson cook, our ambassador at large for international religious freedom and members of their teams. they will brief you on our efforts to promote religious freedom and we'll take your questions afterwards. before i begin, on this important topic i want to address the situation in afghanistan where there was an attack on our embassy in kabul today. it appears that a number of afghan civilians have been hurt and we of course will do all we can to assist them. there are no reports of casualties among embassy
personnel at this time. we are following this very closely. also the unfolding situation in the area, including at nato isaf headquarters which those of you who have been in kabul you know is across the street from our embassy compound. we will take all necessary steps not only to insure the safety of our people but to secure the area and to insure that those who perpetrated this attack are dealt with. but i want to say a word about our civilians who serve at our embassy. it is of course state departments diplomats, usaid, development experts but it is a whole of government effort. and there are civilians from across our government who are there with the sole purpose of assisting the
people of afghanistan in a transition toward civility, security, and prosperity. the civilians who serve are dedicated, brave men and women, committed to advancing our mission. they will not be intimidated by this kind of cowardly attack. while they work hard every day along with their afghan colleagues to help children go to school, to help save mothers lives, from childbirth to build roads to assist farmers, the opposition of violent extremists, the taliban and their allies engage in a constant effort to threaten and to undermine the peace and progress of the afghan people. so we will be vigilant but
we will be continuing with even greater commitment to doing all we can to give the afghan people that suffered so much, a chance at a better future for themselves and their children. now as you know the protection of religious freedom is a fundamental concern of the united states going back to the earliest kays -- days of our republic and it remains so today. as we look around the world in fact we see many countries where governments deny their people the most fundamental human rights, the right to belief according to their own conscience. including the freedom to not believe or not follow the religion favored by their government. the right to practice their religion freely without risking discrimination, arrest or violence, and the right to educate their
children in their own religious traditions and the freedom to express their beliefs. in iran, authorities continued to repress sufi muslims, evangelical christians, jews, bahias, sunnis and amadies and others who do not share the government's religious views. in china, tibetan buddhists, muslims, house church christians, all suffer from government attempts to restrict their religious practice. in eritrea last year a 43-year-old evangelical christian died in prison. he was reportedly tortured for 18 months and denied treatment for ma lair yaw because he refused to reannounce -- renounce his faith. threats to the free exercise of conscience and religion do not always come directly from governments.
just yesterday we heard reports that gunmen masquerading as security officers way laid a bus of shia pilgrims traveling throughout western iraq. the women were abandoned by the side of the road but the 22 men were shot and their bodies left in the middle of the desert. this sort of hateful, senseless violence has no aim other than to undermine the fabric of peaceful society. in the middle east and north africa, the transitions to democracy have inspired the world but they have also exposed ethnic and religious minorities to new dangers. people have been killed by their own neighbors because of their ethnicity, or their faith. in other places we've seen governments stand by while sectarian violence inflamed by religious animosities, tears communities apart. now the people of the region have taken exciting first
steps towards democracy but if they hope to consolidate their gains, they can not trade one form of repression for another. shining a spotlight on violations of religious freedom around the world such as those i just mentioned is one of our goals in releasing this report. we also call attention to some of the steps being taken to improve religious freedom and promote religious tolerance. one of those is u.n. human rights council resolution 1618 which was dude by -- introduced by the organization of islamic cooperation and adopted by consensus in march. it calls on all states to take concrete action against religious bigotry through tolerance, education, government outreach, service projects and interfaith dialogue and we worked very hard with a number of nations and with the oic to
pass this resolution and we will be working with our oic and european counterparts on implementing it and ambassador johnson-cook is leading our efforts. we have also seen turkey take serious steps to improve the climate for religious tolerance. the turkish government issued a degree in -- decree in august that invited nonmuslim to reclaim churches and synagogues that were confiscated 75 years ago. i applaud prime minister erdowan's very important commitment to doing so. turkey allows women to wear headscarves at universities. which means female students no longer have to choose between their religion and their education. third, as we released this report, we reaffirmed the role that religious freedom and tolerance play in building stable and harmonious societies. hatred and intolerance are
destablizing. when governments crack down on religious expression, when politicians or public figures try to use religion as a wedge issue or when sew sigh at thises fail to take -- societies fail to take steps to renounce religious bigotry they embolden extremists and fuel sectarian strife. the reverse is also true. when governments respect religious freedom, when they work with religious society to promote mutual respect or when they prosecute acts of violence against members of religious minorities they can help turn down the temperature. they can foster a public aversion to hateful speech without compromising the right to free expression and in doing so they create a climate of tolerance that helps make a country more stable, more secure, and more prosperous. so the united states government will continue our efforts to support religious
freedom. we are engaging in faith groups to address the issues that affect them. our embassies encourage interfaith dialogue and we will speak out against efforts to curtail religious freedom because it is our core conviction that religious tolerance is one of the essential elements, not only of a sustainable democracy but of a peaceful society that respects the rights and dignity of each individual. people who have a voice in how they are governed, no matter what their identity or ethnicity or religion are more likely to have a stake in both their governments and their society's success that is good for stability, for american national security and for global security and with that, let me introduce both our assistant secretary and our ambassador at large to come forward. thank you all very much. >> madam secretary, can you tell us anything about your understanding what is going on with iran with the hikers and president ahmadinejad
saying that they might be able, that they will be free? >> matt, as you know, we have followed this very closely and we are encouraged by what the iranian government has said today but i'm not going to comment further than that. we obviously hope that we will see a positive outcome from what appears to be a decision by the government. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you. good morning, everybody. as you know the state department is mandated by law to produce this report each year. the secretary of state also designates countries of particular concern. countries whose governments have, i quote the statute, engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom. secretary clinton has designated eight states as
countries of particular concern. they are, burma, china, eritrea, iran, north korea, saudi arabia, sudan, and uzbekistan. all of these countries have been long-term, chronic and egregious violators of religious freedom. the report documents in full detail the violations that have prompted these designations. in burma, for example, hundreds of buddhist monks are still in prison and the government refuses to recognize a muslim ethnic minority are burm meez citizens. in china the overall level of respect for religious freedom declined in 2010 and is worsened this year. the repression of tibetan buddhists and muslims continues. in iran, members of bahai are arrested, expelled from university and their leaders languish in prison.
saudi arabia prohibits the public practice of any religion other than islam and the government discriminates against the shia minority. and in uzbekistan it is illegal to proselytize, and dangerous for a muslim to even discuss religious issues outside of a state-sanctioned mosque. these and many other violations in the eight countries of particular concern are spelled out in great detail in the report. but i want to emphasize that the list is by no means the only measure of serious violations of religious freedom. in a significant number of other countries we are also closely monitoring official repression of religious minorities or official indifference to their plight and urging governments to uphold their affirmative obligations to protect religious freedom. let me mention a few. we are deeply concerned about the fate of christians in syria. many of these people have been victimized twice. they fled the violence in
iraq and now many are seeking to flee syria. the government has created a climate of instability and violence in which the human rights of thousands are being violated on a daily basis. in pakistan the government has not reformed a blasphemy law that has been used to prosecute religious minorities and insome cases, muslims who promote tolerance or to settle personal ven debt tas. this year there have also been several assassinations of those who called for reform of the blasphemy laws including the punjab governor and the minister for minorities who secretary clinton and i met in february before he was killed. the government of pakistan has taken steps to address these rising concerns. for example, in march badi's brother paul was appointed a special advisor on religious mine knots to the prime minister. in july the government also
created a ministry of national harmony which will have oversight for protection, protecting religious minorities at a national level. and in august president zardari celebrated national minorities day and committed his government to support protection of minority religious rights. we will continue to engage with the government of pakistan to address these issues, to promote tolerance and to improve religious freedom. in iraq religious minorities and shia pilgrims have been the targets of devastating attacks since 2003. last october, more than 50 worshippers were killed in an attack on our lady of salvation catholic church in natsag bagabandi dad. we welcome the fact that the government of iraq and has tried and convicted the perpetrators of that attack you about the tragic massacre of the shia i will glimpse secretary clinton mentioned that came to light yesterday indicates that there is more work to be done. in vietnam the record is
mixed. while the government has allowed hundreds of new places of worship to be built, significant problems remain especially at the provincial and village levels. these include slower no approval of registration for some groups. especially in the north and northwest high lands. there are also reports of harsh treatment of detainees after the protests over the closing of the catholic cemetery in the parish. and the government reimprisoned a father lee, a catholic human rights defender who has been paroled 16 months earlier after suffering a series of strokes while in prison. in egypt tensions between christians and muslims continue. for example in january, a bomb at the church of two saints in alexandria killed 122 people. -- 22 people. . .
>> churches be allowed to reopen across egypt. we will continue to call on the government to pass a unified law which would set one single, unified standard for building houses of worship that would apply both to christians and muslims. and we stand ready to support political, religious and civic leaders as they work to build a new society where democracy and religious tolerance can flourish. in these and other places, we will continue to review and assess the state of religious freedom, and we are prepared to designate other countries as countries of particular concern as the situation warrants.
finally, i would urge leaders of all these nations and civil society groups as well to use this report as a resource to help identify and address violations of religious freedom. we stand ready to help. now it's my pleasure to introduce susan johnson-cooke who's the boord at large for -- ambassador at large for international freedom. >> thank you, mike. and good morning. it is a privilege to be with all of you today as we release this important report. it was may 16th and a long haul to get here, but it was worth the wait. i've had the opportunity to work with people of different faiths to bring them together to achieve common goals. it is my belief that in order to live peacefully side by side, we cannot allow violence based on religion to continue under any circumstances. in my first months in the office, i've met with interfaith
leaders from switzerland, turkey and the organization of islamic corporation, oic, and i'm working with my colleagues in the u.s. government and the religious community to address systemic challenges to religious intolerance. as the secretary said in her remarks last week, too many countries in the world today do not allow people to exercise their religious freedom, or they make it difficult or difference to do so. so as hard as it may be, we need to get up every day and keep trying to make a difference. the international religious freedom report we're releasing today is one way to do that. it shines a spotlight on this fundamental human rights issue and guides our policy making. the report is the work of my dedicated and talented staff in the international religious freedom office who have put in long hours, as have all our missions overseas and others here in washington, to verify that this report is comprehensive, accurate and fair. i would also like to thank the hundreds of activists and academics who regularly provide
us with reporting and analysis, sometimes at great personal risk. this year we are publishing the report on our web site, www.humanrights.gov. humanrights.gov is now the one-step location for all our human rights reporting, and we're updating it every day with other state department statements, speeches and materials. this report covers every country, every faith and myriad forms of harassment, persecution and abuse on the basis of religion. we hope it will prompt other countries to redouble their efforts to create an environment where citizens can freely follow their faith or profess no faith according to their own conscious. in many some cases -- in some cases, we spotlight government observations of the right to religious freedom, and in other cases we call out governments that are not doing enough to stop violence by some citizens against others. sadly, the list is long. so i urge all of you to read the
executive summary where we have instilled the state of religious freedom in 2010. obviously, a great deal has happened since the end of 2010, including the upheaval in the middle east and an uptick in sec tear violence there -- sectarian violence there, so we've included a summary of key developments around the world in 2011. we also used shoe leather diplomacy where at the state department we call engagement. it's going to countries and talking to government officials, religious leaders, educators, human rights activists, journalists, young people and others about how to combat hatred and religious persecution. i'm going to be hitting the road in the fall. i hope to visit a number of countries that face challenges in protecting religious freedom including afghanistan, china, egypt, iraq, nigeria, pakistan and saudi arabia. and a third way we make a difference is by spotlighting examples of where things are going right. so i also plan to travel to countries that are doing the
hard work of resolving religious animosities and taking practical steps to guarantee religious freedom to all their citizens. in july i went with secretary clinton to istanbul for a meeting on combating religious intolerance. as the lead u.s. coordinator for the implementation of the human rights council resolution which she refer today this morning, i'm eager to work with the islamic cooperation to exchange ideas on how to best protect freedom of religion. i will convene a meeting of experts later this year with participants from around the world and from a wide variety of faiths and religions. we'll talk about how to counter offensive expression through education, interfaith dialogue and public debate and how to prohibit discrimination, profiling and hate crimes. and we will share ways of combating hate without compromising the universal right to free expression.
because everyone must have the right to believe as well as the right to manifest their beliefs. so i want to thank you for coming this morning, and assistant secretary posner and i will be happy to take your questions. thank you. >> any questions? go ahead. >> thank you. i have two questions regarding china. the first is according to ccc, the congressional and executive commission on china, according to their report beijing had launched a new round of complaints since the year 2010 to year 2012 that says according to for increased transformation of practitioners. so i'm wondering if you have been aware of this persecution, this continued persecution. and the second question is recently china is trying to amend the criminal procedure law, and if this is adopted, it would expand the police power,
and it may authorize the force disappearance. so would you comment on that? >> sure. let me just put those two questions in a slightly broader context. we've said repeatedly that we have concerns about what really has been a deteriorating human rights situation, especially since february of this year. i was in china in april for the human rights dialogue. we raised a number of these issues publicly, and the specific question you raise is part of a broader pattern. we have concerns about the treatment of those who are in sd house churches. a church, for example, in beijing where beginning around easter time people are not allowed to gatt err, and a number of leaders of that church were put in prison. we have concerns about the
uighur community, we have concerns about the tibetan community, the monastery where 300 monks were taken from the monastery and detained. so there's a broader pattern of religious and other persecution that's part of a broader human rights problem. i also would call out the case of a lawyer who has represented religious communities and whose been missing since april of 2010. >> [inaudible] one just to follow on china. as for the religious freedom in the china, you said you've been visiting china, working with officials. what answer do you get from them as far as their, not their belief or not belief, but how they prosecute people because of their faith, especially people from tibetans and buddhists are
still in jails that we don't know, you may not know how many of them. every day they go to jail because of their belief in god or what they worship. so what do you hear from them year after year? these accords come, and you meet and greet here and there and all that. >> well, you know, i take the view, first of all, we will continue to raise these issues in china and elsewhere because they're universal norms, they apply to every country in the world, and there is an obligation of every government to respect those norms. we have continuous discussions as part of a broader engagement with china, but these issues are an important part of that dialogue. and i can't tell you that every time i've had a conversation we've agreed or had satisfying results, but i do believe that raising these issues both publicly and privately serves a number of purposes. it provides assurance to people in the country that we're paying attention, we know what's going
on, it reinforces their commitment to continue working. and in some cases we have been able to get results like releases or better conditions. we'll continue to press even if some of the discussions are difficult. >> my other question is on overall religious freedom. i've been going to this report and also what you said and the secretary said as far as in pakistan andal saudi arabia. and also saudi arabia. and including the u.s. or in saudi arabia or in pakistan, if you go in the mosques, the teachings are not about their religion, teaching is, basically, hatred against other religions in the mosques. and also in pakistan hindus and sheikhs and christians are under attack more and more. you go through the last year's report, but government officials have not taken any steps
including reading these 13 lines on pakistan. so pakistan like an open society in many ways and friends of the united states and ally and also comparing with saudi arabia to pakistan, it may be a different story because in saudi arabia they don't allow any nonmuslims to practice anything. but in pakistan it's a different society. but still why is it pakistan has not been taken care of, taking any steps against those who prosecute other religious people? >> well, i think what i said in my opening comments, we are -- as your comments suggest or your question -- we are concerned about the blasphemy law, about the intolerance in pakistan, about the murder of minister bhatti and governor tosir.
at the same time, the government has in the last several months taken a few positive steps, and we're working with the government on the assumption that these issues need to be addressed. we are, we've worked with the government on a range of things. this is an important subject, and the increasing extremism in that society, i think, is worrying to everybody. so we are very mindful of the things you raised in both pakistan and in saudi arabia, and these are issues that we're very attentive to and will be more so. >> one more quickly, if you don't mind. >> [inaudible] >> thank you. you mentioned an engagement as a way of promoting religious tolerance in different countries. what about the countries where you don't have access to, where you don't have any relations, you don't have presence such as iran, for example? >> well, we are, obviously, very frustrated by a number of things in iran, including the continued harassment of the baha'i.
there were seven baha'i leaders who were sentenced to 20 years in jail. the government then reduced it to ten and now they've upped it again to 20 years. there are eight leaders of one of the baha'i schools of education that are being put on trial. baha'i kids can't go to the regular universities. so there's a range of things, not only the baha'i, but other minority communities. we raise these issues, we continue raising these issues. we have, obviously, a difficult relationship with that government or a north korea, other places that are on the list. but i think, again, it is important for us to be clear about the facts, hold every government to the same standard. it does reinforce people in those societies who understand and know that the united states government is listening and paying attention. >> -- [inaudible] have been passed in yes geneva,t even they, apparently, have not had any effect. is there any other mechanism through which you can get to these countries, such countries? >> well, i think with respect to
iran especially, there is now a special rapport tour who's just beginning his work, and i think that will also play a useful role. it's not just the united states, it's the global community, the human rights council selected that individual, and we're now going to see whether the government lets him in. and if, and what kind of a report reproduces and then what the reaction is. but, again, i think there's a drum beat and a growing view in this world that these issues of human rights and religious freedom are part of what's expected of every government in the global community. >> will oic itself help at all? it's islamic. >> well, i think, again, and suce can speak to this, i hope, and will. i think the oic has helped change the discussion which is a negative discussion of defamation at the human rights council for a decade or so.
we were debating endlessly a pakistan and oic-promoted resolution that really pitted us against some of the islamic countries because it focused on ways to restrict free speech. our view is that free speech and promoting religious tolerance and harmony are consistent. and so with the oic -- what the oic secretary general has done, and sue and secretary clinton were with him in istanbul, is to talk about an alternative, this 1618 resolution which has now been adopted by the u.n. which says let's go at the problem of religious discrimination, religious intolerance affirmatively. let's find some practical ways forward. and he's listed about a dozen of them. those are useful things, and that's partly what we need to be focusing on, an affirmative agenda. >> and the resolution that was achieved was the result worth of ten years' worth of work.
it's an ongoing effort. we're now at the implementation stage. so istanbul was a successful trip, and we're going forward with my hosting the experts in december here at the secretary's invitation. so it's ongoing, and we will not let it go. thank you. >> hi. i wanted to ask you about israel. there's issues of christians and muslims being able to worship freely, and also there's been several attacks on mosques in the west bank. have you been speaking to the israeli government about? how much respondent do they hold in trying to protect as an occupying power? >> we do speak to the israeli government about this and a range of other human rights issues. i've been, myself particularly, involved since the goldstone report in dealing with some of the issues of humanitarian access, etc., in the context of a u.n. resolution. but i would say i think to put this in a broader frame, at the center of a lot of the tensions
in israel and the west bank and gaza is the absence of a peace process, of a peace process that's yielding a two-state solution. that's what we favor. a lot will be, a lot of human rights issues are going to be dealt with much more directly and easily once we have that process up and running and once we get a result. >> thank you. could you comment on the situation of religious freedom in the georgia in general, and also i was wondering if you could give us some more details about uzbekistan, former soviet state. >> i don't have anything to add to what's in the report on georgia. with respect to uzbekistan, we have had a set of -- i've been to uzbekistan twice. we had, my colleague, tom melia, was part of a bilateral dialogue that occurred last week here with the government of
uzbekistan. and one of the things he raised and ambassador blake is the issue of religious freedom. we continue to have concerns about both restrictions on the ability of religion -- religious groups, unregistered groups to participate, to operate openly. i met with a number of religious figures when i was last there who had church services disrupted, some religious leaders arrested. so there really is an ongoing problem there, and we are eager to work with the government to try to improve that record. >> last question. go ahead. >> hitting pakistan again, i wondered if you see any progress on the blasphemy law and whether you considered adding it as a ctc? >> um, we certainly considered aing any country -- adding any country, and we are very mindful, as i said in my opening comments, about the both misuse
of the blasphemy law, the fact that it's been applied so often, and the fact that some people have been, have received severe sentences as a result of it. we're going to continue to work with the government. we've seen some positive steps in the last few months, but i think the message here is, um, we have great concern about the overall situation of extremism and intolerance in pakistan, and we stand ready to work with the government to try to address that. >> thank you all. >> the u.s. senate is in recess for their weekly party lunches. today on the floor we expect the senate to continue with a bill that renews trade restrictions against myanmar, also known as burma. in the meantime, the house is taking up legislation to extend
programs and funding structures for the federal aviation administration along with some surface transportation provisions. current faa authorization expiring on friday, the senate is expected to act on that bill upon house approval. you can see live coverage of the house when they return here on c-span2. also on the hill today, the senate finance committee has testimony from former fed chair alan greenspan and john engler and other policy advisers expected. live coverage of that beginning at 2 p.m. eastern on our companion network, c-span3. >> today both homeland security secretary janet napolitano and fbi director robert mueller said that the credible and specific terrorist threats coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is ongoing and unresolved. newly sworn-in national counterterrorism director matthew olson joined them at
this hearing. this is about two hours, 40 minutes. we'll show you as much as we can before the senate returns at 2 p.m. eastern. and it will be available later today online at c-span.org. [inaudible conversations] knox. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
>> the hearing will come to order. good morning and welcome to our distinguished panel of witnesses. secretary napolitano, director mueller and, for the first time confirmed, happy to welcome the new director of the national counterterrorism center, matthew olson. this past weekend in ceremonies and vigils across the nation, we stopped to remember the nearly 3,000 people who were killed ten years ago in the attacks of september 11th, 2001. and to appreciate the acts of heroism and service by countless americans on that day and every day since to protect our homeland and defeat the violent islamist extremists who attacked us on 9/11 and drew us into the
war that we are in. the ninth anniversary of 9/11 last year didn't get, obviously, the same degree of attention, and neither will the 11th anniversary next year. and in some sense that's why we're here this morning. this annual status of the threat against our homeland hearing with the heads of these three critically important agencies has become a tradition of our committee. and senator collins and i wanted very much to hold it after 9/11 to look back a little bit, but really to look forward and to make the point that our work goes on, our work of protecting the homeland goes on. even though we had fresh, um, warnings that alerted us over the past few days, over this weekend of commemoration of a
specific, credible, although unconfirmed terrorist plot against the u.s., there's already evidence that in a quite natural reaction the american people are beginning to forget how real the threat of islamist extremism continues to be. there was a gallup poll taken last year that showed terrorism ranked at the bottom of six concerns, six choices that people had to make in this country. understandably, probably, because of the intensity of the economic concerns that we had. ranked behind economy, jobs, government corruption, federal spending and health care. and in a very different way last week a study was published by the cato institute calling for the abolition of the department of homeland security which, essentially, would return us to where we were pre-9/11. in some ways i think we may be the victims of the success that has been achieved in protecting
the homeland since there has, obviously, not been another mass casualty terrorist attack on american soil since 9/11, something, a reality nobody would have predicted on that day. some have taken this lack of another large-scale attack as further evidence, to them anyway, that the u.s. government exaggerated the danger posed by islamist extremism and overreacted in the wake of 9/11. i believe this is a profoundly mistaken and ultimately irresponsible conclusion. we have weakened our enemies, and we have protected our homeland. but our enemies are not advantage wished, and that's -- vanquished and that's why our vigilance must be constant and not limited to the understandable public attention given to a particular anniversary. as the senate committee on
homeland security, it's our responsibility to make sure our national focus is not distracted from the threat. for our witnesses and the thousands, tens of thousands of people who work with them, it is their constant responsibility, 24/7, 365 days a year to protect our homeland. so we welcome them to this annual threat hearing and thank them for the service and for all that their respective agencies have had to do with the fact that we have not had another major terrorist attack against our homeland in the past ten years. but the violent islamist extremist ideology that motivated the attacks of 9/11 remains a potent force, though weakened throughout the world. and increasingly, of course, seems to have an effect in the
radicalization of home-grown terrorists including lone wolves. today, um, we've asked our three witnesses to help us answer at least three big questions. one is to take a quick look back to the extent they want at what the u.s. government and their agencies have done since 9/11. two, of course, the focus of this hearing is to discuss the current threat, the status of the threat of islamist terrorism to our homeland. and then the third is to discuss what our government currently is doing to counter that threat. so for me the question today is not are we safer than we were on 9/11, i think it's self-evidently clear that we are safer. the question is, what are we doing and what should we be doing to make sure that that safety continues to be what it
is and be greater in the face of the threat that we continue to face. the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 has passed, the media and public attention will naturally, um, fade. but this congress and future congresses -- and this administration and future administrations -- must stay focused on the threat and its ever-evolving tactics until the ideology is truly vanquished and gone. senator collins. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the state of maine became forever linked to the attacks of september 11th, 2001, when two of the hijackers, including the ringleader, mohamed atta, boarded an early morning flight to boston at the portland, maine, jetport.
from logan airport they set in motion the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history by seizing control of american airlines flight 11. that evening members of congress gathered together on the steps of the capitol to express unity. a day that had begun in shock and anger ended with unity and resolve. we resolved to insure that our country had the tools to detect and deter future plots as well as to identify those who would do us harm. when chairman lieberman and i authored the intelligence reform and terrorism prevention act of 2004, our goal was to create a strong leader to coordinate the
17th separate agencies of the intelligence community and to change their culture from need-to-know to need-to-share so that next the dots would be connected in time to stop an attack. the operation that killed osama bin laden represented the kind of successful collaboration of intelligence and operations that we envisioned. information is now being shared more effectively both across the federal government and among federal agencies and their state, local and tribal partners. just last week dhs and the fbi announced that specific, credible, but unconfirmed threat related to the anniversary. the administration is taking this threat seriously and appropriately so.
it has shared information and intelligence with state and local law enforcement officials in the targeted locations and others across the country. thankfully, there was not an incident over the weekend, but we must consider whether this particular threats has truly passed or whether the terrorists have just gone to ground. we must evaluate for how long should we remain on heightened alert. this threat demonstrates yet again that the terrorists have not abandoned their quest to harm our country and our people. they continue to probe for vulnerabilities. much has changed in the past decade. we have vastly improved the sharing of information across the agencies at the federal level and with state and local
emergency and law enforcement professionals. america's chemical facilities and seaports were especially vulnerable a decade ago, and we took important steps to safeguard them. in the case of last week's terrorist threat, the decision to publicize the threat put millions of eyes and ears on the lookout for suspicious behavior on the eve of the september 11th commemoration. senator lieberman and i continue to work to expand our see something/say something law. the legislation that we've introduced would provide further protections against lawsuits for citizens who report suspicious activity indicating potential terrorist threats. when it comes to our homeland security, however, we truly are only as strong as our weak link.
as we saw in 2009 with the christmas day bomber and major hassan's attack later on fort hood, when information is not shared and when warning signals are ignored or overlooked, our security is placed at risk. the tsa has strengthened airline passenger screening. nevertheless, a young man was recently able to fly cross-country without a valid government-issued id and with an expired boarding pass that did not even bear his name. similarly, the department of homeland security has bolstered the security of american supporters and identification documents, yet two iraqi refugees with ties to al-qaeda were arrested in kentucky for
allegedly helping to carry out attacks against our troops. how a known bomb maker whose fingerprints we had had for years was able to enter our country on humanitarian grounds remains an unanswered and troubling question. it appears, however, that this case may reflect the kind of lack of imagination that the 9/11 commission found to be a persistent failure. while the fbi's analysis of ied collected in iraq and afghanistan has undoubtedly helped u.s. war fighters, the forensic information being collected from these devices should also be used to screen those trying to enter our country. and we must insure that the fbi has the resources necessary to
do that job. we must ask this question: are there other iraqi nationals granted asylum who were involved in attacking our troops? i know that the administration is reviewing the files of more than 51,000 iraqis admitted under this refugee program. but it's deeply troubling that we're still awaiting clear answers from the administration. home-grown terrorism is another challenge and evolving threat. this committee first sounded the alarm about home-based terrorism five years ago and has held more than a dozen hearings on this topic. over the past two years, 31 arrests have been made in home-grown plots by american citizens or league, permanent residents, an enormous increase compared to the previous seven
years dating back to 2001. yet the administration's strategy for countering violent islamic extremism is insufficient to meet the threat. we shall never forget those whom we lost on september 11th, 2001. as has been noted often, the terrorists only have to get it right once, we have to be right every time or suffer the consequences of an attack. we are surely much safer than we were a decade ago, but we must be relentless in anticipating the changing tactics of terrorists. as the successful decade-long search for osama bin laden proved, america's resolve is our
most powerful weapon against those who seek to destroy our way of life. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much, senator collins. secretary napolitano's our first witness on the panel. before she testifies, um, last friday morning the department of homeland security held a departmental commemoration of 9/11, and i was able to attend on the plaza outside the reagan building here in downtown washington. and the department showed a video which had been made by people within the department about its history, particularly on that day. and i thought it was very impressive, for me moving, and i asked the secretary if she'd bring it today. so i'm sorry not everybody in the room can see it, maybe you can see that screen over there. but at this point whoever's in charge of the machine, please, turn on the video. it's only about two or three minutes.
♪ >> ten years ago our nation suffered the worst terrorist attack in our history. >> we all remember the great sense of shock and sadness we felt that day. >> all of us remember where we were on that morning of september 11th, 2001. >> some of us lost family members, friends, colleagues, loved ones and people we admired. >> nearly 3,000 lives were lost, including citizens of more than 90 countries and as many states and backgrounds. >> that day changed us as americans, as a people. >> it brought our society together with a remarkable spirit of unity. it changed how we looked at threats from terrorism. >> it led to the creation of this department, the department of homeland security. >> this september 11th we remember those we lost, and we celebrate their lives. >> and we recommit to the ideals of service and sacrifice.
>> it's important for the many lives who were forever changed that day. >> america is stronger than we were a decade ago. we have bounced back from the worst attacks ever on our soil. >> we've built a culture of resilience and have made progress on every front to protect ourselves. >> our experience over these last ten years also has made us smarter about the threats we face and how best to deal with them. >> we have used this knowledge to make ourselves more resilient not just to terrorist attacks, but to threats and disasters of all kinds. >> and much of the thanks for that goes to you. >> the men and women who work and serve at the department of homeland security. >> every day you rise to the challenges that have been placed on us. dhs is there. >> you are there. rain or shine, day or night. >> either in the washington area, in the field -- >> or in one of more than 75 countries around the world. >> we're all part of the same team, working tirelessly towards the same goal; protecting
america. >> protecting our communities, our hometowns, our families and our neighbors. >> we are one group of dedicated individuals. >> we are -- >> proudly, one dhs. >> so as our nation marks the anniversary of one of our most tragic days. >> we note, too, the englishments of our still-young department. >> so i want to express my deep appreciation -- >> and my gratitude for what you do every day to keep our country safe. >> and to say to every one of you -- >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> i thought that was great. i hope my colleagues on the committee did. it really, it's such a powerful statement of the unity. i thought it was wonderful to include secretaries ridge and chertoff in it. and all the component division
heads. there was a real sense of unity and resolve. so i appreciate it very much, and with that, please, proceed, secretary, with your testimony. >> well, thank you. thank you, chairman lieberman, senator collins and members of the committee. i, obviously, appreciate the opportunity to testify today on the department of homeland security's efforts to keep our nation safe against ever-evolving threats. this weekend our nation observed the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and honored the nearly 3,000 innocent victims as well as their friends, their colleagues and their families. we saluted the many first responders and law enforcement officials who responded with such courage and conviction on that tragic day and in the days that followed. while these past few days remind us that we must remain vigilant and prepared as threats against our country remain, the recent anniversary of 9/11 is also a
time to consider the progress that we have made. as chairman lieberman noted, america is a stronger and more secure nation today. we bounced back from the worst attack on our soil, and have mae progress on every front to better protect ourselves. we've used our experience to become more resilient, not only to terrorist attacks, but to threats and disasters of all kinds. following 9/11 the federal government, including many members on this committee -- especially senators lieberman and collins -- moved quickly to develop a security framework to protect the cub from -- the country from large scale attacks directed from abroad while enhancing federal, state, local and tribal capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from attacks and disasters here at home. a key element of this new security framework included the creation of the department of homeland security. and over the past ten years, dhs
and its many partners across the federal government cross public and private sectors, have strengthened the homeland security enterprise to better mitigate and defend existence ever-present and ever-evolving threats. perhaps the best way to illustrate the progress we have made is to supply today's security architecture to what existed when the attacks occurred. the 9/11 plot, like many terrorist plots, began overseas which means our security layers must begin there as well. with respect to intelligence, planning for 9/11 began several years before the actual attacks. bin laden summoned operatives to afghanistan and discussed using commercial aircraft as weapons. since then we've strengthened the depth and breadth of our intelligence enterprise to get the best information possible wherever the operational planning may occur. with respect to visa security, all of the 9/11 hijackers
applied for visas overseas. today the dhs visa security program deploys trained special agents to high-risk posts around the world to conduct targeted, in-depth reviews of visa prints before they reach the united states. we have additional layers in place through the visa checks and pre-departure screening measures. and not only has dhs now reviewed a historic backlog of overstay leads for national security and public safety concerns, but this process has helped put an enhanced biographic exit system on the fast track. with respect to international information sharing, the hijackers began preparing for the attack while living abroad. today 18 countries have joined the united states in agreeing to share information about potential terrorists and criminals through a series of preventing and combating serious
crime agreements, and more are underway. after 9/11 the federal government discovered that information existed about the hijackers well before and after they came to the united states, but this information had not been coordinated, shared and analyzed. since 9/11 the federal government, along with its state, local, tribal, private sector partners, has made significant improvements to enhance information sharing and analysis. with respect to targeting, the federal government and dhs in particular has become more effective at analyzing travel-related data to better understand and anticipate the travel patterns of known or suspected terrorists. this analysis has been essential in identifying, targeting and interdicting known and suspected terrorists and prompting additional screening before these individuals travel to the united states. we've established 72 fusion centers which serve as focal
points for the receipt, analysis, gathering and sharing of threat-related information among the federal, state, local, tribal, territorial and private sector partners. today the intelligence community is able to identify the common threads that can tie a seemingly minor crime to the larger threat picture. and all but a few of the fusion centers are now connect today the hsdn which is a secret-level realtime data system sharing data across our country. once the 9/11 hijackers made it to the united states, they still required access to aircraft. with respect to flight schools, prior to 9/11 the hijackers enrolled in flight schools and conducted cross-country surveillance flights. today the tsa screens all foreign students seeking flight training against terrorist criminal history and immigration databases. with respect to passenger screening, ten years ago the 9/11 hijackers were able to
purchase tickets and board planes carrying weapons. today through the secure flight program dhs prescreens 100% of the 14 million passengers flying weekly to, from and within the united states against government watch lists, and senator collins, i think i can elaborate, but that would have, if it had been deployed, prevented the situation that you referred to with the boarding pass. moreover, transportation security officers at more than 450 airports now screen all checked and carry-on baggage for explosives, weapons and other threats using cutting-edge technologies. and with respect to behavior detection, even though some of the 9/11 hijackers were randomly selected for additional screening and aroused the suspicion of gate agents, they still made it onto a plane. tsa's behavior detection officers today work to identify potentially high-risk passengers
who exhibit behaviors that indicate they may be a threat to aviation security and refer them for additional screening. the last line of defense against threats to aviation security is on the plane itself. with respect to airplane security, today all commercial aircraft have hardened cockpit doors, and federal air martials or -- are deployed based on risk. and with respect to emergency communications, limitations in be communication and interoperability between air traffic control openers, military personnel and first responders hinterred the response on 9/11. -- hindered the response on 9/11. our nation has made significant investment in the training and technical assistance to improve emergency communication capabilities. each of these layers combined create a stronger security architecture that did not exist on 9/11 and that has helped keep our nation, our transportation
system and the american people safe over the past ten years. we would not be where we are today without the direct involvement and support of the congress, and particularly this committee. i want to thank you for your support, your guidance and your continued oversight. we continue to engage the broader homeland security enterprise in our nation's protection. we've made great progress, but more remains to be done. thank you. >> thank you, secretary napolitano. that was an excellent statement. i particularly appreciate the 9/11, the pre-9/11 comparison to today. because it documents in a very tangible way the progress we've made. and vindicates or backs up a conclusion that i've come to over the years that it's a very painful one which was that 9/11/01 could have been prevented and should have been
prevented and that if it was tried today, it would be prevented. and that's a very important thing to be able to say. director mueller, thanks for being here. talk about change, though as compared to the department of homeland security which didn't exist on 9/11, the fbi, obviously, is a venerable american institution. but it has gone through a dramatic transformation in in the last ten years under your leadership to become our domestic counterterrorism agency and really a first rate one at that. i appreciate it and, also, we thank you for agreeing to stay on for two more years. i suppose i should also thank your saintly wife for allowing you to stay on. [laughter] >> most appropriate, yes. thank you. [laughter] >> so, please, proceed with your testimony. >> thank you, sir. and good morning, mr. chairman and senator collins, members of the committee. i thank you for the opportunity to appear here today before you. as has been pointed out, since
september 11th the threat from terrorism has evolved in ways that present new challenges for the fb, and b our partners -- fd our partners, far more complex and diverse than ever before. and in response to fb -- the fbi has undergone unprecedented transformation over the past ten years as, mr. chairman, you pointed out. we have developed new capabilities necessary to address terrorist and criminal threats, we have created the administrative and technological structure to meet our mission as a national security agency. and we have made these changes while continuing to safeguard american civil liberties. let me begin by focusing on the most serious threats we face and then discuss how the fbi has changed since september 11 to counter these threats. al-qaeda in the arabian peninsula and its leader, anwar al-awlaki have shown a commitment not only to attack
the united states, but also to inspire acts of terrorism overseas, or from overseas. for the past two years, aqap has undertaken attacks directed at the homeland. we saw this on cargo planes and in the attempted bombing on christmas day the year before. and on line they have reaffirmed their commitment to this type of attack. they also continue to emphasize lone actor operations in the west and have sought to radical size individuals over the internet to carry out attacks here and in europe. and despite the recent counterterrorism successes abroad, and there have been many, core al-qaeda also remains commit today high-profile attacks directed at the west. we saw this in the 2009 plot to attack the new york subway, and we confirmed this from the materials seized on the raid on osama bin laden's compound last spring. and as you know, we continue to
track the current threat streams from al-qaeda, threat streams that became public last week. other groups in the region of pakistan such as ttp have similarly shown an intent to target the united states. we saw this when ttp claimed responsibility for the times square attempted bombing. and we remain concerned that all of these groups encourage radicalized westerners, particularly u.s. citizens, to travel to the fatah and east africa for training with the potential to return to the united states to conduct attacks. and, of course, the threat from home-grown, violent extremists is amongst our most serious terrorism threats today. individuals may be radicalized over the internet, even if they do not receive direct guidance or training from a terrorist group. these springs may have diverse -- these individuals may have differing motives. increasingly, they may be acting alone, and for these reasons
home-grown, violent extremists are harder to detect and to disrupt. and the fbi along with our partners, nctc, department of homeland security and the other law enforcement and intelligence communities are focused on these threats more than, perhaps, eight, nine, ten years ago. and, of course, the fbi remains concerned about the domestic terror threat as well. economic and political issues could motivate white supremacists or militia extremists to violence, and as you know domestic terrorists can often operate as lone offenders or in small cells which are difficult to detect. overall, the threat environment has evolved significantly since september 11th and is more complex and diverse than ever before. and this requires the bureau and our partners to change and adapt constantly to address these threats. as you pointed out, mr. chairman, the fbi has undergone
unprecedented change in the years since september 11th. today the fbi is a stronger organization as a result, and we continue to focus on national security threats as our highest priority. after september 11th the bureau shifted 2,000 agents from criminal investigations to national security matters. over the years that followed, we centralized management of counterterrorism and intelligence operations at headquarters to avoid the stovepiping of information. structurally, we created the national security branch in 2005 to consolidate and integrate the bureau's overall national security mission and gave senior executives the authority to accelerate the integration of intelligence into our national security operations. we established the directorate of intelligence at headquarters to manage our intelligence programs nationwide. we created field intelligence groups to prioritize -- in each of our field offices, to prioritize intelligence collection in each of those
field offices, and we hired and trained thousands of new intelligence analysts and agents to enhance our intelligence capabilities. following september 11th, the fbi greatly increased the number of joint terrorism task forces, task forces operating around the nation, we now have more than 100 of those task forces. these task forces bring together the expertise from our federal, state and local partners, and this cooperative effort has led to numerous successes in disrupting terrorist plots and threats since september 11th. after september 11th the fbi also recognized the need to recruit, hire and train the intelligence analyst cadre necessary to meet the requirements of our national security mission. in 2001 the bureau had 1,000, approximately 1,000 intelligence analysts and fewer than 30 supervisory analysts. today the bureau has tripled to more than 3,000, and we have more than 270 supervisory
analysts. let me as an aside also emphasize the fbi's role in countering cyber attacks. one of the most significant and complex threats facing the nation. with our intelligence and law enforcement capabilities, the bureau is positioned to investigate and disrupt cyber intrusions. our need to counter cyber attacks crosses all programs including counter intelligence and the criminal programs. beginning in 2007 we worked with our partners to establish the national cyber investigative joint task force which now includes 20 federal and intelligence community agencies. through these partnerships the bureau has identified, investigated and prosecuted an unprecedented number of intrusion cases, and these intrusions have impacted our military, other government agencies, the financial and telecommunications sectors and other critical infrastructure. addressing this cyber threat will be among the fbi's highest
priorities now and in the years to come. let me conclude by thanking the committee for your continued support of the men and women of the fbi and support for our mission as it has evolved. this has been essential to our transformation and our ability to meet today's diverse threats. and, again, as the secretary said, i'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have. >> thank you very much, director. we look forward to the question period with you. matthew olson, welcome. obviously, national counterterrorism center is also one of the most significant, new entities created in our government, to put it similar policeically, to make sure the dots are connected but, obviously, does much more than that. so this is your first appearance before us since your confirmation, and we welcome you. >> thank you very much, sir. chairman lieberman, ranking member collins, members of the committee, good morning.
as i begin, let me thank you for taking the time to meet with me during my confirmation. i appreciate your counsel and support. i'm honored that my first hearing as director of the national counterterrorism center is before the committee that authored the legislation creating nctc. i welcome this opportunity to discuss the evolution of the terrorist threat and our collective efforts to address that threat. i'm also very pleased to be joining secretary napolitano and correcter muller this morning -- director director mueller this morning. after a few weeks as the director of nctc, i can report that the center is a national asset, and it's comprised of dedicated and talented intelligence professionals representing a wide array of perspectives and experiences. i'm also proud to lead the center continuing the work of others, andrew liebman, scott redd and john brennan, and my testimony reflects the thoughtful and rigorous analysis of the expert work force at
nctc. today's hearing asks the question, ten years after 9/11, are we safer? the bottom line is, we are safer than ten years ago. but al-qaeda, its allies and affiliates continue to pose a significant threat. thanks to the skill and hard work of thousands of men and women in intelligence, homeland security, diplomatic and law enforcement communities as well as our men and women in uniform, we've made significant progress in the fight against terrorism. with the support and guidance of this committee in congress, we have built an enduring counterterrorism framework. the framework that includes the establishment of dhs, the transformation of the fb, and i the creation of the national counterterrorism center. our nation has placed relentless pressure on al-qaeda's leadership, denied the group safe haven, resources. and as a result, core al-qaeda is weakened. but a decade after the september 11th attacks, we remain at war with al-qaeda. it's a resilient and adaptive adversary, and we continue to
face an evolving threat from its adherents. in the balance of my remarks, i'll briefly describe that terrorist threat and discuss a bit about the role of nctc and some of the challenges we face. first, al-qaeda core's capabilities to conduct attacks has been sufficiently diminished. again, weakened but not vanquished. the group remains the ideological leader of the global extremist movement. al-qaeda's senior leadership has advanced several unsuccessful smaller-scale western plots in the past two years, and these plots highlight its ability to continue attack preparations while under sustained counterterrorism pressure, and just this past week we acted in response to unconfirmed intelligence of a possible threat that the group was planning an attack in the united states. we thus remain concerned that al-qaeda may be plotting to strike against the united states at home or overseas. further, since al-qaeda's relocation to pakistan, it has encouraged militant allies to expand their operational agendas
to include u.s. and western targets both within the region and overseas. for example, faisal shahzad's attempted bombing director mueller mentioned is a stark reminder that the pakistani taliban continue to threaten u.s. interests in afghanistan and pakistan region. additionally, ten years after 9/11 we face a much more diverse and diffuse threat from groups affiliated with al-qaeda. they've increased the scope of their operations, seeking to strike some u.s. and western targets both inside and outside of their respective regions. the single most capable affiliate is al-qaeda in the arabian peninsula or aqap. aqap's recent gains and yemen's governing challenges increase our concerns about the group's capability to conduct attacks. further, the group's prop propaa efforts are designed to inspire like-minded western extremists to conduct attacks in their home country. aqap's two attempted attacks
against the homeland, the airliner attack in december 2005 and its attempt to down two u.s.-bound cargo planes in 2010, show that the group is a determined and capable enemy. that it's able to adjust its tactics. third, a key element of the evolution of the terrorist threats since 9/11 is the advent of home-grown, violent extremists as you mentioned, ranking member collins. these individuals are inspired by al-qaeda's global extremist agenda. we've seen an increase in violent extremist english content online over the past three years. this has fostered greater cohesion among home-grown, violent extremists. plots disrupted during the past year appear to be unrelated operationally but may share a common cause; rallying extremists to attack the homeland. a key feature of this trend has been the development of a narrative that addresses the unique concerns of u.s.-based extremists. this narrative includes a blend of al-qaeda inspiration,
perceived victimization and the glorification of homeland plotting. hves who plan attacks with no direction inside the united states or overseas are difficult to detect and could advance plotting with little or no warning. now, turning to the role of the nctc, the government's ability to counter the threat has evolved. nctc has proven to be a vital element of the government-wide with effort to counter terrorism. first, as you know, nctc has the unique responsibility to examine terrorism issues, spanning geographic boundaries regardless of intelligence collected inside or outside the united states. nctc has access to the full catalog of reporting, both foreign and domestic, on terrorism issues. last year nctc created the pursuit group to develop tactical leads and pursue terrorism threats. pursuit group analysts look for connections among less obvious details to help insure that
terrorist threats are fully examined. nctc continues to implement important reforms in the watch listing pro. this includes better processing and sharing of watch list information or watch listing experts working closely with nctc's pursuit group, with the fbi and be the department of homeland security to build more complete terrorist identities. nctc also conducts strategic operational planning for counterterrorism activities. in this role, nctc looks beyond missions toward the development of a single unified counterterrorism effort across the federal government. we develop plans to help translate high-level strategy into coordinated activities. finally, as this committee is well aware, the center continues to be the home to the interagency threat assessment and coordination group, led by dhs in if partnership with fbi and brings together federal and nonfederal intelligence, law enforcement, first responder communities to bridge the
intelligence information gap between traditional intelligence agencies on the one hand and state, local, tribal and private sector partners on the other. i would like to close today by identifying nctc's most important resource, and can that's our people. as in, ctc redoubles its effort to meet the terrorist threat, our progress depends on maintaining and developing our talented and diverse work force. we bring together professionals from across the government to focus on a single mission, counterterrorism, and we must strive to work collaboratively, to share information and to integrate our efforts. finally, all of our activities must be consistent with our core values and the protection of privacy and civil liberties. nctc must retain the trust of the american people as it fulfills its critically important responsibilities. chairman lieberman, ranking member collins, members of the committee, i thank you for the opportunity to testify today. as you know, perfection is no more possible in counterterrorism than it is in
any other endeavor. your leadership, support and direction have been invaluable in helping us move forward to carry out our mission and to work with resolve and unity to protect the nation. thank you. >> thank you, director olson. thank you very much. we'll go to the questions now, we'll start with a first round of seven minutes for each senator. let me begin by going to the threat stream that alerted everyone in government and the nation last week as we approached the tenth anniversary weekend. it was described as a specific be, credible but unconfirmed or uncorroborated. let me ask you, first, what's, what's the status of our review of that threat now? um, is it, do we consider it to be an ongoing threat, secretary napolitano, director mueller? whichever. >> chairman lieberman, and then i'll defer to director mueller. but, yes, we consider it an ongoing threat.
um, and we continue to look into confirming that threat. >> director? >> the threat has not been resolved, and until it is resolved, it is an outstanding threat that we are following up on. even though september 11th has now passed, we do not believe that that necessarily means that we should back down. and consequently, we with, department of homeland security, nctc, the intelligence agencies are pursuing that as heavily as we have over the last several days and will continue to do so until it's resolved. >> so it remains f i hear you correctly, unconfirmed. but, again, the intelligence stream was specific and credible enough that you're not prepared to dismiss it. >> no. >> mr. olson, want to add anything to that? >> i share the views of the directer and secretary. we're not prepared to say that it's been resolved, and we're continuing to work to analyze it, share information about it.
>> let me, i might add one thing, if i might. >> go right ahead. >> mr. chairman, that is that since we first had word of that threat, we have conducted hundreds of interviews, we have been pursuing a number of leads, and consequently this as a result of that we've been able to eliminate some aspects where we thought we ought to be looking in order to determine whether it was, indeed, a valid threat. but there's still work to be done. >> well, that's reassuring from my perspective. i was struck, and i know there were plans already well in place, federal, state and local, to be prepared to defend against another terrorist attack on the tenth anniversary weekend, and particularly with regard to home-grown radicals or lone wolves, but others as well. but i was impressed by the extent to which all the, so many of the assets that our
government has now in regard to homeland security, counterterrorism were brought into action on this threat that we really, i don't think, would have been able to do ten years ago. one of the things that the 9/11 commission said was when they asked the question, who's in charge of counterterrorism or a particular response to the terrorist threat, they didn't have an answer. so from my perspective, it looked like you were all really working together very well. but i'm interested who was in charge. because at some point somebody has to be overseeing all this. um, so who would you say was in charge? >> we have, you have, on the one hand, the intelligence agencies, you have the domestic agencies, operational, dhs, fbi and the like, all of whom -- we have been through this before any number of times. and the relationships and the
organization comes together as, very quickly. given our history. but i would say in the white house and the office of the national security adviser that makes certain that everything has been taken care of, generally through the nctc is the operational arm and the support arm. but there's no question about the source of the leadership and the coordination. and i think that's why we have been over the years effective in terms of coming together, sharing information, understanding our differing roles and complementing each other to make sure the job gets done to resolve the particular threats. >> okay, so that's very interesting. o is the deputy national security adviser, mr. brennan, who's in charge of counterterrorism homeland security, acting on behalf to the president, obviously, is in charge, if you will, in coordinating all our assets, but that the nctc plays an
operational role on his behalf, a support role? is do you want to comment on that, mr. olson? >> yes, sir. i would say as you put it, john brennan played a coordinating role on behalf of the president in the last few days in response to this threat, and our role at nctc is to be the place where information all comes together. because some of the information is coming from cia, some information's coming from fbi, lots of information coming from dhs. we play a central clearinghouse role where we take all of that information, analyze it and then share back out what we are seeing from an analytical standpoint. >> secretary, do you want to add to that? does this sound right to you? >> that's right. and it is an amazing coordination that i have seen, and i don't think it would have been able to be accomplished ten years ago. it is, ultimately, coordinated out of the white house. we all a understand how we
fit -- we all understand how we fit together. sometimes it's difficult to articulate. you know it when you see it, but it does seem to increase our ability to share, not only to share information amongst ourselves, but it's important that we get information to the country and receive information back. and that, also, is a difference between now and ten years ago, and i can say that ten years ago i was the attorney general of arizona. and it was very difficult to get information as to what was going on with the attacks, what decisions were going to be made with respect to air safety, airports, borders and all the rest. now that sort of dislocation doesn't occur. >> thank you for that. my time's running out, but i want the ask you, secretary, one additional question. probably the most visible part of the change in homeland security since 9/11 for most americans has been the presence of tsa at the airports. and i think they've done a great
job. as you know, they continue -- it's an annoyance to people, but they put up with it, um, and in testimony before this committee, mr. pistole has indicated that the department really would like to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more risk-based aviation security strategy. i wanted to ask you what the department is doing to implement such a risk-based strategy and, um, whether there are moves that will be made soon in that regard. >> and we'll leave this hearing at this point. you can see it in its entirety at c-span.org. the u.s. senate is about to return from their weekly party lunches to work on a bill to restrict trades from my yang bar, also known as burma. and now to the u.s. senate. an exchange for supplemental disaster relief funds. last night we couldn't even pass
a procedural vote to proceed to a bill that would provide this needed relief. this raises the question what kind of country are we? are we a country that takes care of the victims of disasters without hesitation or reluctance or are we a country that engages in misguided debates in the midst of a disaster when our citizens need us the most? my state, minnesota, has seen its fair share of natural disasters over the last few years. in the past year and a half president obama has declared seven federal disasters in my state. i've seen the devastation that mother nature can cause. i've seen communities that desperately need federal assistance to recover. northwest minnesota has seen the phenomenon of 1 hundred-year
floods turn into nearly annual events. every spring towns and red river valley hope this year won't see another record-setting flood. this spring i visited georgetown, minnesota, and watched as they built emergency earthen levees to protect their town. the town ran out of clay needed to build their levee, and the only choice left for them was to build up -- dig up their baseball field, their park; the diamond and the rest of the park. i watched as they dug up the heart of their community to protect their homes and businesses. that same day i visited oslo, minnesota. flooding in the red river turns oslo into an island town.
residents are cut off in the rest of minnesota for weeks as the red river floods all of the surrounding roads. that night as i left, i was one of the last cars to make it out of town before all the roads were closed, and its residents prayed that the temporary levees would hold. the residents of georgetown and oslo were doing what they could do to protect themselves but not all disasters could be anticipated. on june 17 of last year storms brought 39 tornadoes, 26 funnel clouds and 69 reports of hail in minnesota. three minnesotans died. the town of wodena was hit the hardest. 234 homes were damaged. the roof was torn off the high school and the county fairgrounds and the community center were destroyed.
after disaster, minnesotans have enough to worry about; it would be terribly unfair to pile politics on top of their worries. natural disasters just happen. they are acts of god, and they happen without warning. minnesotans need to know that when their state and local governments are overwhelmed, their federal government will be there to help them recover. every state needs to know that. we're one country. and they need to know that we won't play politics with their lives and their livelihood. many of the same people who are demanding that we offset the costs of natural disasters have voted year after year to fund our wars and afghanistan and
iraq without paying for them. some have done this for nearly ten years now. they've passed on well over $1 trillion in debt to our children to finance wars that haven't been a surprise and that we could have and should have been budgeting for from the beginning. for the last ten years we've paid for wars by borrowing from countries like china, willing to finance our debt, and by giant emergency spending bills. that's unusual in american history where wars usually prompt reevaluations of our fiscal policy. this spring i introduced my
paid-for war resolution to address this fiscal irresponsibility. my resolution would simply require that war spending be offset in the future. to be sure there can be real emergencies that require the immediate exercise of military force with its attendant costs -- that's why my resolution allows the offset requirement to be waived in such emergencies. but when you know year in and year out that you're going to be at war, you should budget for that and not just pass the cost on to your children. iraq and afghanistan have cost us well over $1 trillion, and we will be paying for years to care for the veterans who came back with the wounds of war. that didn't single-handedly create our deficit problem, but it sure made it a lot worse.
and yet, many of the same people now demand that we must offset disaster spending for americans who have lost their homes or are suffering otherwise. they have been fine with spending staggering sums of money on our wars without offsetting them. doesn't that seem just a little hypocritical? i wonder what, what kind of mind set does it take to conclude that it's okay to pass on to your children the cost of war, yet when americans have lost their homes or had their communities destroyed, it's not okay to respond to that emergency in an appropriate way. it just doesn't make sense to
me. when congress plans its spending, it can and should be accounted for through a budget. but when emergencies arise and natural disasters are the quintessential emergency, we shouldn't hesitate to act for the good of the american people. i believe that the united states of america is a country that protects its citizens when they are at their most vulnerable. i hope this congress will confirm that conviction by voting for emergency aid to the communities across this nation that have been devastated by natural disasters. thank you, mr. president, and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont.
mr. sanders: as you know doubt know, the state of vermont has been hit very, very hard by hurricane irene. the storm caused widespread flooding, resulting in a number of deaths, the loss of many homes and businesses and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to our property and our infrastructure. i have visited many of the most hard-hit towns, and i was shocked and moved by the extent of the damage. many of these towns still today have very limited access because the roads and bridges that link them to their outside world have been destroyed. irene will go down in history as one of the very worst natural disasters ever to hit the state of vermont. let me take thu opportunity again to thank everybody who lent a hand to help their friends and neighbors who were
stricken by the disaster. i especially want to commend and thank our emergency responders. they did a fantastic job. the vermont national guard and our local officials for all that they are doing to assist communities and individuals to get back on their feet. mr. president, we still do not know the cost of this disaster, but let me share with you just a few preliminary figures. and really this is quite remarkable, remembering that vermont is a state of about 630,000 people with approximately 200,000 households. today already more than 4,200 vermonters, and by and large those are households, have registered with fema. 200,000 households, we have over 4,000 who have already
registered with fema. today there have been more than 700 homes confirmed as severely damaged or totally destroyed. again, we have about 200,000 households; 700 homes have been confirmed as severely damaged or completely destroyed. more than 72,000 homes across the state were left without electricity. it's about a third of the total. thousands lost phone service. in some areas these services have still not been restored. the storm knocked out 135 segments of the state highway system as well as 33 state bridges. 13 communities were completely isolated for days. 35 roads and bridges are still shut down while many others are
only open for emergency services. hundreds of farms and businesses have been destroyed undermining the fabric of our rural economy. our amtrak and freight services were completely suspended as tracks literally washed into rivers. one of our two amtrak lines is still down today. the third -- the state's largest office complex -- we have a very large office complex in waterbury, vermont, near our state capital, in which 1,600 state employees go to work every day. it is the nerve center of the entire state. that complex was flooded. those 1,600 workers have not been able to return to their offices, disrupting the ability of the state to deliver critical
state functions. at least 90 public schools were either directly damaged or inaccessible because roads washed out and could not open on time. five public schools remain closed until further notice. this is but a short list of the devastation experienced by the state of vermont as a result of hurricane irene. i know that as in times past, we will pick up the pieces and restore our homes and businesses. that's what vermonters will do. vermont communities stick together in hard times, and it has been absolutely amazing to see the volunteer efforts taking place from one end of the state to the other; comes to mind now police officers from the northern part of the state relieving their brothers and sisters in the southern part of
the state who are under stress. we're seeing that in almost every area, strangers coming to help people whose homes and businesses were flooded. but the simple fact is that vermont cannot do it alone, nor can any other state hard hit by disaster. the scale of what hurricane irene did is overwhelming for a state of our size. the federal government has an important role to play in disaster relief and recovery. historically it has, and today it has. when our fellow citizens in louisiana -- and i see the senator from louisiana here -- suffered the devastation of hurricane katrina, people in vermont in a very deep sense were there for them. when the citizens of job lynn, missouri, were hit by the deadly tornadoes, people on the west coast were there for him. and when terrorists attacked on
9/11, everybody in america was there for new york city. that is what being a nation is about. the name of our country is called the united, u-n-i-t-e-d. united states of america. and if that name means anything, it means that when disaster strikes one part of the country, we rally as a nation to support our brothers and sisters. i would like to thank in that context majority leader reid and senator landrieu for their commitment to drafting a disaster relief supplemental appropriations bill to provide provide $6.9 billion in disaster relief funding. at a time when funding is tight and every appropriation is subjected to even more intense scrutiny, the majority leader and senator landrieu are doing exactly the right thing in addressing these needs now, and senator reid has my full
support. while it is imperative for congress to adequately fund fema's disaster relief fund, the federal response, in my view, should be more comprehensive as it has been for past disasters of this scale. in particular, it is imperative to address the severe damage to roads and bridges by providing funding for the federal highway administration's emergency relief program. in vermont alone, preliminary estimates to the federal aid highway system are well in excess of $500 million, and will likely be much more. that is just an incredible amount of money for a small state like vermont. for a state that receives a total federal apportionment of of $210 million annually, the scale of damage relative to our state's ability to pay for it cannot be overstated.
similarly, it is important to provide sufficient emergency funding for programs like community development block grants, the economic development administration, the emergency conservation and emergency water shed protection programs at the department of agriculture, the disaster loan programs at the small business administration. additionally, given the significant impact the floods have had on the stock of affordable housing, it is very important to include an appropriation for the home program as well as an additional disaster allocation of low-income housing tax credits. in vermont, more than 350 mobile homes were destroyed or severely damaged, and many trailer parks will never reopen. in other words, we are going to have to make up for a lot of lost affordable and lower income housing. mr. president, let me conclude by saying this -- this country
has its problems. we all know that. but if we forsake the essence of what we are as a nation, and that is we stand together when disaster strikes, if we forgo that, if we no longer live up to that, i worry very, very much about the future of america as a great nation. thank you very much, mr. president. with that, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: thank you, mr. president. i want to so support the remarks of the senator from minnesota, senator franken, and the senator from vermont, senator sanders, who have described beautifully several different aspects of this debate. senator franken said how is it that so many on the other side rush to support funding for wars and rebuilding in afghanistan and iraq and never ask for one
dime to be offset, and yet at a time when americans need help, they are not, let's say, leaning forward. i think there are a lot of americans, not only from around the country but from their own states that might be very puzzled by this sudden commitment to find offsets when it comes to rebuilding neighborhoods in minnesota or vermont or neighborhoods in virginia or massachusetts or in other states, new york, that have been so hard hit. i think they will have some explaining to do, which is why i'm hoping that today when we retake this vote that many of my friends on the other side will consider the leadership showed last night by senators blunt, senator brown, senator coats,
senator collins, senator heller and senator snowe. these six senators voted yes to move forward to try to find a way to find the political will to provide funding for disaster victims now and not wait but send them a powerful and strong and clear and unambiguous signal that the united states senate and the united states congress hear their cries, and we know of their anxiousness and distress, and we will respond and will fight about how to pay for this later, not now. what they need to hear from us now is that help is on the way. what they need to hear is the fund will be replenished. what they need to hear, mayors and county commissioners and governors, republicans and
democrats, from governor christy christy -- christie in new jersey to governor mcdonald who have given their support for funding disasters now, what they need to do is not worry about us. they have got enough to worry about. they have got roads to rebuild and neighborhoods to rebuild and rivers to get back in their banks. i heard today from senator schumer that in one of the canals -- potentially i think it was the erie canal -- the lock is no longer connected to the canal. that's how powerful the water was. there is a lock and then there is a canal, but they are not together. that's a problem, not just for new york but for the entire northeastern transportation infrastructure, which affects us all. and as a senator from louisiana, i, of course, feel particularly strong about this because many of these senators, republicans and democrats, came to our aid six years ago when katrina, the
worst natural and man made disaster, because, as you know, senator, it wasn't just the hurricane that did us in down there in the gulf coast. it was the collapse of a federal levee system that should have held and didn't and breached or broke or evaporated in 52 places and left a major metropolitan internationally famed city under water and literally fighting for its very survival, a metropolitan area of over 1.5 million people. and this country rallied after push -- a lot of push from me and others, but the country rallied and the private sector stepped up and the nonprofit community was terrific, and we still have, mr. president, literally thousands of volunteers still coming. it is so heart warming, to louisiana and to mississippi to help us rebuild.
i just drove the gulf coast three weeks ago, just my husband and i. i said let's go see waveland, let's go see the coast of mississippi and how it's coming along. i visit our neighborhoods regularly in south louisiana to see how they are coming along. they are still six years later struggling. i don't think there is one house up for every ten destroyed in waveland today. that's how hard this work is. it doesn't happen automatically, but mississippi is working hard, louisiana is working hard. so i can only imagine how these states feel. joplin, missouri, the state of missouri hit by tornadoes that i understand the winds might have exceeded 250 miles an hour. unheard of. this is not time, to my friends on the other side, to sit on your hands or to take out your green eyeshade and pencil and figure out how we're going to pay for it this week. we have all year to debate that. we need to send them emergency
funding now and worry about how to pay for it later. this is the number of -- this is what our map looks like. green is too pleasant of a color for this map, but this indicates the destruction or the number of disasters that have been declared by the president. you can see for the first time, i believe, in our nation's history a disaster has been declared in every state but two -- michigan and west virginia. now, michigan technically could be declared a disaster because it's been under an economic disaster now for several years, but not a natural weather event, but they most certainly are having very tough economic times in michigan. and west virginia always has tough times as one of our poorest states. so really, the whole country is
in need. why would the other side sit down when america is lit up with disasters? we have got to ask them to reconsider, move forward with the $7 billion help now, and not only is it the right thing to do and the moral thing to do and what americans do for each other and what we should do, but it's really all about -- besides the moral aspect which is obviously the most important, but there is a real immediate economic benefit to this. if there was ever a jobs bill, mr. president, this is it. i can promise you, having lived through this disaster recovery, it's like a -- a shot in the arm for these communities. literally, every single dollar that leaves our hands and goes to theirs will be spent immediately on food, on clothes,
on building materials. i mean, this is the most direct stimulative job creation thing we could do, and we need to do it now this week and send a strong signal to the house of representatives -- don't fool around with disasters, and let's get this job done. let me just show you that when people say, well, you haven't provided funding for disasters, we have provided funding in our base bill for disasters. and i see the senator from california who is scheduled. i will be just two minutes more and then be happy to yield the floor. but i want people to know that we have budgeted for disasters. i chair the homeland security appropriations bill. it's about a $42 billion bill. as we know from marking the 9/11 anniversary just this past sunday, that department was created after 9/11 to respond to new threats. it's $42 billion. we pulled agencies, disparate
agencies and tried to pull them together. that is still a work in progress. we have $42 billion. so we budget in fema, which is in that budget, we budgeted in $2,003,800,000,000. it was obviously not enough, so then we went up because the disasters were increasing to to $1.8 billion, and then in 2005, katrina hit and blew every model just completely shattered the model. in fact, the expenses of katrina and rita and wilma were so high, they exceeded the entire budget of the homeland security department. it was $43 billion just for katrina, rita and wilma. the whole budget is only had -- only $42 billion. when people tell me pay for it out of the budget, we can't pay for it out of the homeland security budget. in some cases, it exceeds the
entire budget of the country. it's just not right to do that to pay for current disasters -- to pay for past disasters with money that we use to prepare for future disasters. and then i could show you the rest of the chart. we have beached up our base funding, but we don't have that level of base funding that potentially may be necessary, but now is not the time. this has been a problem, as you can see, for many years, so now is not the time to keep the east coast waiting and missouri waiting and the floods in the mississippi river waiting and some people in california waiting, and texas, might i say, has had 20,000 fires, 20,000. this is not the time to keep the people of texas waiting while we figure this out. we eventually are going to have to figure it out. we don't have to do it this week. so i see the senator from california. let me yield to her, and i will be happy to add a few more things to the record. i thank the chair and will yield the floor. mr. reid: mr. president. mr. president, i ask consent
that the motion to proceed to the vote by which cloture was not agreed to, the motion to proceed to h.j. res. 66 be agreed to and that the motion to reconsider be agreed to, that the time until 4:15 p.m. be equally divided between the two leaders or their designees, and that at 4:15, the senate proceed to proceed to vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to h.j. res. 66. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. reid: mr. president, i know there are a lot of things going on on capitol hill this afternoon, so we'll be very, very thoughtful in making sure that people have ample time to vote, as long as someone doesn't carry it to some real extreme, but we want to make sure people have the opportunity to vote. the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i just wanted to ask the majority leader before he leaves the floor, because i couldn't hear all he said, is this the fact that we're going to vote again on proceeding to a bill that will allow us to take up this emergency fema funding?
mr. reid: the gentlewoman from california is absolutely right. we need to do this. the caucus that was just completed was, to me, so enlightening. two senators from new york indicated, for example, that the mohawk river, because of those storms, changed course, and the erie canal lox don't work. they're going to have to spend lots and lots of resources to get the erie canal back so it works and can handle commerce in that part of the state. that part of the country. that's just one thing. so the answer to my friend from california is yes, we need to get people help now. people are desperate. mrs. boxer: mr. president, taking back my time, i'm just very pleased we're having another chance at this because just for the information of the public, we fell short of the votes required to take up this
emergency bill. and i just looked up the meaning of "emergency" in the dictionary. it says it's a serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate attention. so that was webster's dictionary. it was dictionary.com. they got the best definition pievment going to repeat it. an smj a serious situation or that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate action. and that isn't a democratic definition or a republican definition or an independent party definition. that's what an emergency is. and to anyone who says that don't worry if an emergency happens you can take care of it just from your existing
funding, it's just not true. senator landrieu is our leader here on the appropriations committee. what she has told us just in a meeting we had a few minutes ago is that there is support in her committee to fund fema, the federal emergency management agency. they are the ones as everyone knows, that gets out there and how could i ever forget the wonderful james lee witt who headed fema during the days of bill clinton and we had senator feinstein and i, earthquake, earthquakes, floods, fires, everything and he was out there. and it wasn't even a question. he knew that we would rebuild. he knew that he could make those commitments. and i will tell you this: senator landrieu held up a map that shows 48 states have been hit by horrible emergencies, some that we never anticipated
like a terrible earthquake right here in this area. floods that had not been experienced since the 20's in vermont. and i want to say on behalf of california, we've had some horrible problems and we've had some terrible emergencies. president worked with the governor, we have these disaster declarations now because the funds we set aside just weren't enough, and that isn't anybody's fault. it's an emergency, a serious situation that happens unexpectedly. so we have to move, and i've heard, you know, one of the republican leaders in the house say we got to cut spending to pay for this emergency, and he has recommended a place to cut that. we'll cut jobs.
we'll cut jobs. and we'll stop us from being able to reinvigorate our manufacturing sector. that's ridiculous. unnecessary, unwarranted. we all know we're going to move to deficit reduction. we all know there's a smart way to do it. we did it when bill clinton was president. spending on things we don't need to spend on, we invest it on things we knew would create jobs and we ask the billionaires to pay their fair share, thank you very much. so let's not get this mixed up with deficit reduction. we are on a path to cut the deficit. we will cut the deficit. we know how to cut the deficit. we did it under bill clinton, we balanced the budget, we created surpluses and we had had the debt on the down. but don't confuse that with
making sure that our communities are okay. i'll tell you something, the senators from vermont spoke today at our lunch, and one of them had tears coming down his face talking about a woman who is very ill in one of their communities who had to go to chemotherapy, it used to be a five-minute drive by her car and now has to drive an hour and a half in order to get her treatment. please, don't talk about making someone like that suffer even more. talk about what we can do as a nation. when we pull together as democrats, republicans, independents. i spoke at a memorial in my -- in my hometown on september 11, and when i put together my remarks, the thing that i kept
harping on was the unity that we had. well, we need to be true to ourselves and to our constituencies and to our beliefs, but there are moments in time when you say you come together as americans. now, i don't know if that woman in vermont a what her party affiliation is and i could care less. we need to help people who get stuck in these fires, in these disasters, in earthquakes, floods, and droughts. i just do not believe that the american people think when you have that kind of act of god -- and that is the legal term as well as the true term. when there is an act of god like this, you can't be on your own.
last night our leader tried to move to a bill that would allow us to take up assistance to these people in desperate need, and keep our promises to those who were the victims of disaster in my home state and other states. senator landrieu, i'm correct, you told us, 48 states since january 1. i don't know, i think that my caucus is going to stand on its feet until this is done. we're not going to back off here. this is one nation under god, indwiddible -- indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. i want to give justice to the people who are struggling, who are suffering, who pay their taxes. i want to help the small businesses that are under water. there's no liberty if you're
trapped in a house somewhere that's cut off because the road went out, and the senators from vermont talked about the roads that are just impassable, impassable. so last night we had a bad vote. we didn't have enough votes. we need 60 votes, and i hope anyone listening to the sound of my voice will call their senator and double check how he or she voted. hurricane irene could cost more than $10 billion. it would make it one of the 10 most costly disasters in u.s. history. we've seen record flooding on the mississippi, missouri rivers, and we've seen lives lost and farmland devastated. senators spoke in that caucus about what happened to their farmers. they don't have crop insurance for all these crops, and these particular crops are were not
covered and one of our colleagues said, you know, it's bad enough we have to import oil from other countries, do we want to start importing our food from china? and be reliant on other countries for our food supply? right now as i stand here, the brave heroes, the firefighters, are battling wildfires in california and texas. here's a picture, because a picture -- pictures worth a lot of words. here's a picture. look at this fire raging out of control, the firefighters as close as they can get to the flames. this one is the champy fire -- cheanch fire in kern county, burned 20,000 acres, threatening 2,300 homes in stallion springs, california. now, firefighters have gotten this fire 60% under control because they've had help from fema. they've been able to get help from the federal government. but fire season in california
has just begun. a lot of people don't realize it in our state september and october are the hottest months, the dryest and the hottest months. and so every wildfire threatens our communities just like this one and right now fema barely has enough funds to get it through the next couple of months. fema is running low on resources, and funds are so low that they can't provide assistance for communities that are rebuilding from past disasters, let alone respond to this hats happening right now on the ground as we speak. i heard the lieutenant governor from texas complaining, complaining about the situation in texas that they needed more federal help. well, fine. he ought to call up his senators and tell them to vote with us today. to get the federal help.
we have more than 380 million in disaster recovery projects on hold, several in california. we had a tsunami, march 11, 2011. we need $5.3 million that's been promised to help communities in del norte, monterrey, santa cruz, california. this tsunami did damage. i want to show you pictures from the 2010 mudslide in january and february of 2010 we were hit in california by severe winter storms, flooding and mudslides. you could see a very important road that's been blocked, and again shutting off people because we have a lot of mountains, and we have to cut through those mountains. so in calaveras, imperial, san
bernardino, siskiou, fema promised the money, they met the criteria, they're waiting and right now they can't receive the $3.5 million they need to recover. that's what this impasse is about. this isn't about make-believe. this is about real people cut off, shut off, businesses shut down, people laid off, suffering, and let's not have a political spat around here. this isn't a partisan issue. when your neighbor's house is on fire, don't haggle over, you know, the price of the garden hose. get the hose out, connect it and put that fire out. now, the good news is, we have people from both parties
starting to realize we have to do this. we have to send a message to the house. an emergency is an emergency. we have to put aside politics for the good of our country. so i'll close where i started. the dictionary definition of an emergency, serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate action. we all agree we have serious situations in our great land. we all agree we didn't expect all this. although if i might say, with a different hat on, my hat as the chairman of the environmental and public works committee, we better understand the climate change is coming. we better understand that what we're seeing now is going to be a new normal. it pains me to say we have done nothing here in terms of addressing some of the causes of
this, but guess what -- regardless of our views on this, as my kids would say, we are where we are, and it is what it is. and this is what it looks like in too many parts of our great nation. so an emergency is a serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate action and i echo the call here by our democratic leader for immediate action at 4:15. i hope the phones will light up there and everyone call their senator. this is time to vote yes on our vote at 4:15 and get on with it so that people will know we stand with them in this greatest of nations that we don't walk away from our people when they're suffering like this. thank you very much. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: thank you, mr.
president. i just want to thank my colleague from california for her. -- poignant, eloquent and appropriate words and i want to thank the chair of our homeland security subcommittee which handles fema disasters for the great work she has done. now, mr. president, i spent several days both this week and last week visiting the places in upstate new york that were so badly damaged. upstate new york is a large community. if we were a state, we woulding without the new york city and the suburbs, that would still be about the eighth or ninth largest state. and the eastern half of upstate new york has been unexpectedly devastated -- not once, but twice. first by irene and then by lee. it comes on top of an awful season, because we've had so much rain that the ground has been so wet that when these
torrential rains occur -- wh one a hurricane, one a tropical storm -- no groundwater could be absorbed and it made things worse. let me tell you a few of the things i have seen just to share with my colleagues. we went to a small village in skaharie county, a beautiful, agricultural, dairy county. it is to thed by small little towns. we have the third largest rural population in the country, only pennsylvania and north carolina have larger rural populations than new york. went down a beautiful street, nice, typical street, could be a street that you might see on an ozzie and hai harriet scene. ever street had all their belongings piled on the street.
the waters had so overflowed its banks that the entire town was flooded by three, four, five six feet of water. now you see the lives of the people who have been -- whose lives have been so turned inside out by the torrent of water. and they have lost thousands of dollars worth, each family, at a time they can ill-afford t but it is beyond that. it is the picture of grandma and grandpa at their wegd, the only one left, that's gone. it is the dare that dad sat in every night when he came home from work. it is their lives -- wiped out in a few moments. in this town in skaharie county and in most of new york state, almost all, the evacuation plans were amazing. we lost very few lives.
some counties with huge amounts of devastation, no lives were lost in most. that's because of the great work that the emergency work of our relief workers. as bad as schoha rhode island e county was, because years ago fema had installed their warning sirens, people were able to get out of their homes and avoid being drowned. the damn tha dam that we had prd some federal dollars for didn't break. had it, it would have been worse. but fema money to prevent disaster had helped strengthen the gilboa dam. the creek went around it and through it and that saved lives. i visited a place in olster county. the town of shandake nnchts
beautiful, in the foothills of the catskills. a major road connects one part of the town to the other, a county road. you're driving along. it is newly paved. all of a sudden you see the yellow strips to prevent you from going further. and there is a 30-foot gash in the road, just totally gone -- 30 feet. but what's astounding is, it's deep, 20 feet deep. and the creek, the waterway there changed its course, went through not just the mcadam, not just the underlay that holds the road, not just the dirt fill of a foot or two or through the bedrock, through ten feet of bedrock. it'll take years to bring this road back. and it is a cost that the town can't afford. our little towns, our little villages, our cities, even our
counties of some significant population can't absorb the millions and millions of dollars of damage. total stilt by our governor is -- total estimate is we've suffered almost a billion of damage by irene. i visited the city of amsterdam a lot. it had been very damaged and a dam that a bridge went over, the metal of the bridge -- steel girders, strong, were just twisted out of shape. but a little further downriver, the locks are no longer functioning because the torrent of rain created such swells that the mohawk changed its course. the erie canal, one of our great pieces of history, is damaged so that it can't function and won't
function for quite a long time, even with federal assistance yovment know without federal assistance what would happen -- for months and even years. then i went to binghamton. maybe that was the saddest at all. it is at the confluence -- a say that struggled. it had i.b.m. in its early days. knob is left of i.b.m. there. the city is struggling. it is at the confluence of two river valley, the success question is hanna and the shenango. it had been terribly flooded in 2006. senator clineton and i visited. it was awvment hundreds of homes, the sewage plant, the hospital, lordes hospital. it wasn't damaged because again fema, with remediation money after 2006, helped supply some of the money for a wall that prevented the shenango river from damage the hospital. so it thank god is functioning.
but then we went to the shelter. 500, 600 people who had been there for days and have nowhere to go because they lived in rental apartments in downtown binghamton, which was totally flooded. every hoe fell and motel room is taken. there are very few rental apartments. they have nowhere to go. nowhere to go. maybe fema will come in and bring trailers like they did for your great state of louisiana, madam chair. but without fema, i don't know what these people will do. they have foovmentd the red cross is doing great job. they have nothing else. their homes are gone. they are belongings are gone. one man said, i tried to get to the bank so i could take a few dollars out so i could buy some slippers much it is awful. now, what does this mean policy-wise? it means america cannot ignore
these people. the people of new york, when louisiana had trouble, didn't say our tax dollars shouldn't go to louisiana. the people of new york did not say when there are terrible tornadoes in joplin, our tax dollars should not go to joplin. i hope the people in the rest of the country, represented by some here on both sides of the aisle, are going to say we're not going to step up to the plate. america has always stood up for disaster relief. always. because we're one nation. and we all have known that when god-given disasters, way beyond the power of mankind, come, no single community can take care of it themselves. that's why the federal government has traditionally stepped in. and regarded it as an emergency and we've stepped in. we haven't had strings attached or conditions or we'll put it in this bill, we'll give you this much now and see what you need
later. nuh-uh. fema has done such a wonderful job. but they're basically out of money. right now in missouri, none of the relief work continues, despite the deaf nation in joplin, because they only have money left to deal with the immediate emergency of lee and of irene that hit new york state. and the fema workers are doing great, the people -- the volunteers that i saw every railroad where -- everyone pulling together. why can't this senate and this congress pull together like the people of our communities pull together when a disaster hits? we had one gentleman whose house was gone but he hadn't even been able to tend to it because he was a skilled work and was tending to the homes phs others for five days. i saw him an his sisters. and they even had some humor about it. they were wearing shirts, "good
night, irene." so we have to pull together and pay on an emergency basis, without looking for setoffice, for the war in iraq and fan -- we build bridges there, roads there. and now we're saying, nuh-uh, when it comes to our american citizens, we're not going to do that any longer? what is going on? so this afternoon we will vote simply on a resolution to those of you not schooled in the arcane ways of the senate. it is called the motion to proceed. it allows us to put legislation on the floor so we can aid these victims. and it can be amended, if some of our colleagues think this is wrong or that is wrong. they can debate it. but today's vote will say whether we should even begin to move to cover this. and we are getting blocked. last night's vote, civics our colleagues from the other side
of the aisle -- six of our colleagues from the other side of the aisle joined us, but not enough. and so here -- it is not me speaking, this is the e.p.a the. republicans block senate disaster aid bill. what's going on? they don't block bridges and money for the war in afghanistan and iraq to help rehabilitate those communities, and they're blocking this? for help in missouri and louisiana and new york and vermont and the missouri valley -- missouri river valley, up through the dakotas, the state of the missouri? what is going on here? and this has never been a partisan issue. republican governors, whose states have been hard hit, have called for them.
chris christie, hardly a wallflower, hardly one who doesn't relish a partisan battle when he thinks it is right, but to his credit when he thinks it is wrong, "our people are suffering now and they need support now and they [congress jrk) can all go down there and get back to work and figure out the budget cuts later." that's governor christie. governor bob mcdonnell, a well-known conservative. "my exern is that we help people in need ... i don't think it's the time to get into that [deficit] debate." or my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, let us bill to debate this bill. let us move forward and let us fund fema fully. let's not put something in the c.r. and say, well, in a month from now we'll debate it. all all know c.r.'s get tied up. fema has run out of money now -- now. so this vote will be a vote that determines whether we keep the
american tradition of helping one another in a time of disaster here in america. and a vote "no" says no, i don't want to do it. a vote "no" says i am not going to proceed to even debate the bill. a vote "no" is against the greatness of america, in my opinion. because we always have stayed for helping people being one nation, under god, indivisible. if it happens to us down the road, we know the nation will be there for us. you know, mr. president, i was just there at the 9/11 memorial service, tenth anniversary. it was a time when we all pulled together. george bush did not ask when we were in the oval office and said new york desperately needed $20 billion, he didn't ask, is it a blue state? how are we going to pay for it?
nuh-uh. stepped up to the plate. he was a patriot, and he said, this is what america must do. well, that was a man-made disaster, an awful disaster, far more loss than now. but this is a disaster and people are hurting and people need help. and the attitude of president george bush hopefully will be ththe attitude of our colleagues across the aisle, that they won't block the bill that they won't say, find seven excues or say we'll give you a little of the money a month from now in a continuing resolution when the money is desperately needed now. so, in conclusion, mr. president, this vote is a crucial vote. it says, are we the same american people that we have always been, who look out for one another, who help one
another in a time of need, regardless of party and regardless of bickering and everything else? this vote will determine, and i urge a strong bipartisan vote for the resolution that we'll vote on in an hour. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. ms. landrieu: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: i thank the senator from new york for those very descriptive and moving comments about his state, and particularly the part of the state, mr. president, that we don't hear a lot about and that's why we depend on the senators to speak the truth about what is going on and what they're seeing. and i know the senator from new jersey is here to speak. but pictures are worth a thousand words, mr. president. i wanted to put this chart up, and i hope the cameras can really grasp. horror of all four of these pictures. and what is, i think, most telling about them is they are
all from a different state in a different part of the country th-fplt picture is -- this picture is of joplin, missouri. i haven't personally been to joplin but before the year is out, i will go. and i think other senators should go see what's happened in one of the great tornado disasters in the history of our country. this picture, which almost brings tears to my eyes because it looks exactly like poncho train looked in the city of new orleans, i believe is from irene from north carolina. i mean it is just heartbreaking. i'm sure this is a family that was on the coast and everything they had is destroyed. it really is quite moving. this is a picture in, on the mississippi river. i'm not sure in what county. but when our senators document floor to talk about -- when our senators come to the floor to talk about rural areas and
devastation, at least in missouri you can walk down the street and find a home with a neighbor's home who was destroyed and at least get a hug. out here you're by yourself. it can be miles between your home and your neighbor's home. you can't even find the church that you worship together on sunday. here is texas. we prayed for the rain last week to go west to texas. it hit louisiana. they are the ones that need it but they can't get it. 20,000 fires in texas. thousands of homes burned up. mr. president, before everybody starts to think well what is the great help? yes, fema is a great help but let me put this in perspective. you get $2,000 a family -- two -- to help buy a toothbrush, maybe a few pieces of clothing, some initial toilet tries, et cetera and you get $30,000 for some immediate needs. it's not like we're trying to
send people $1 million a house. how can people stand in the way? if you had a house worth $150,000 and you ran a printing business in town and you lost both, the most you can get out of this bill is $30,000. do they think we're being too generous here? it's a minimum support. so i wanted to make that clear. a minimum support. if some people are lucky enough to have insurance, if the insurance company steps up and not tries to pull out the fine print like they did in katrina and come up with 100,000 excuses why they can't fund the homes, maybe they'll get homes. this isn't us trying to dump millions of dollars on people that don't deserve it. that is what i wanted to say. i'll have more to say, but i think these pictures speak a thousand words. again, fema is out of money. i don't want anybody coming here to vote to say, well, i didn't vote because fema has money. they're out of money. they're stopping projects all over the country because all they can basically do is have
enough money to pay those immediate needs on the east coast. joplin, missouri, has been told, no, you have to wait. louisiana, the gulf coast, it's been, no, you have to wait. we're happy to wait a few weeks. we understand the dilemma, but this cannot go on week to week and month to month. we need to pass a bill for the entire year and come back to it. i see the senator from new jersey, and i yield the floor. mr. menendez: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: i appreciate the senator from louisiana's passion on this and her personal experience in louisiana in instances of disaster. she speaks from firsthand knowledge and speaks for all of us in this respect. mr. president, i rise today because we as a nation have always come together, always come together to help each other in times of crisis without question, without politics.
in my 20 years between the house and the senate, i never questioned in the midst of a disaster somewhere in the country, which fortunately for the most part has not been new jersey, about casting my vote to support those fellow americans who found themselves in urgent need because of natural disasters having nothing to do with any control they had whatsoever. this is not a time to politicize disaster aid. it is not who we are or what we expect this nation to be. our goal when disaster strikes is to unleash the full force of the federal government to help families in trouble and communities in ruin. not to score some political points by slowing relief and calling it responsible fiscal policy. in the wake of a storm, when the flood waters rise, when the
winds blow, when the storm surge rushes in, we shouldn't be rallying our political base. we should be rallying the full force of emergency responders to help. in the last few weeks, the east coast has suffered an earthquake, a hurricane, and some of the worst flooding my state has seen in years. 100-year flood. i received a letter from a constituent in moores landing in monmouth county who wrote, dear senator, i live in a development of homes in monmouth county, new jersey. our community is in great need of assistance. one section was devastated by an over flow of the manosquin inlet. homes and property were destroyed. families and lives of those homeowners were terribly disrupted. then after the first calamity, hurricane irene brought further
destruction to the same section of our community. but in addition to that repeated damage, irene brought damage to a second section of our community. hurricane irene in addition to the added homes and property damage forced many of our residents to be evacuated in order to avoid drowning in the rushing flood waters. this second catastrophe added to the misery and hardship suffered by our affected homeowners who lost their furnitures, their carpets, their flooring, everything on the first floor of their homes, their furnaces, air conditioning units. and all of them have to tear down their water-damaged walls to avoid mold and dry out their homes. all this devastation and loss comes at a time when our people are already finding it difficult to make ends meet. these people have no money to take on the added cost of repair. now there is no one who would even buy their homes, so they are stuck with a true nightmare scenario: no money to fix things
and no way to sell their homes. we need your help. i understand federal funding from fema might be available, and we urgently need your assistance in securing these funds for our neighbors so that these people can move on with their lives. mr. president, that constituent, a fellow american, deserves to know that her government will be there to help, that relief is on the way, not held up in congress to satisfy some ideology or political agenda. when disaster strikes, americans come together. we do not hesitate. we do not ask why. we do not wait. we rush to our neighbors and do all we can to help them rebuild. after the damage and flooding irene caused, we came together as we always do, as a community. each of us working together to help others.
now, i had the opportunity to tour the flooded areas of new jersey with the army corps of engineers, and then we went to pater son. this is a picture of paterson, new jersey, where responders are on a boat; with the president and governor christie of my state to assess that damage. after five days of flooding, there were still those who were homeless, trying to put the pieces of their lives back together. as we flew over the area with the president that day, we could see mud lines on homes indicating how high the flood waters had reached. and then tragically we saw home after home where everything up and down some streets, all the personal belongings of residents had been put out as trash, cherished pieces of their lives lost to ruin. paterson was particularly hard
hit. ironically, the river that once fueled the economy of paterson washed out bridges, dams along the river were badly damaged, power was knocked out for days. and with the latest rains, flooding again took place, even after hurricane irene. so the water may have receded, but the consequences have not. now we've been very pleased with the federal response so far, response that should have nothing, nothing to do with politics. nothing to do with political budget debates in washington and everything to do with the real needs of families in paterson, in lincoln park, in so many places, in wayne and so many other places in new jersey and across this country. some of these people have to start over, start their lives over, and fema along with other
federal, state, and local officials need the resources necessary not only to move in as quickly as possible to deal with the crisis, but the resources necessary to deal with the aftermath, politics not withstanding. because when one community is in trouble, we are all in trouble, and we pull together. frankly, mr. president, i cannot believe that there are those in this chamber and in the other body who see this as a political opportunity, those who would focus on the politics of relief even in the face of families who have watched their lives wash away, their property in ruins and their communities devastated. mr. president, new jersey suffered severe damages and left families already struggling with another challenge, and it's up to all of us to help them. irene was a powerful storm, but
what we have learned is that there is nothing more powerful than what unites us as a community. it is in times like these when families and small businesses trying to recover it, that we appreciate the role of professional, well-equipped, well-trained local, state and federal boots on the ground. in my view, one of the most legitimate and nondebatable roles of government, clearly i've heard many of my colleagues refer to this in a different context, is the security of our people. well, if you are homeless as a result of a disaster, you have a security problem. and that is to provide a helping hand to its citizens when there is nowhere else to turn. yes, we have to do all we can to keep our economy moving, create jobs and reduce the deficit. we have to make cuts where we can. but in the face of disasters, we cannot say "no" to families who
have lost everything. we cannot say "no" when flood waters are rising, homes are lost, possessions are piled in the streets, families are picking through the mud to put whatever pieces of their lives they can find together once again. we are not a nation that ties helping them recover to the politics of the moment. we are not a nation that leaves our neighbors alone in the time of tragedy. we don't stand down in times of crisis. we step up. we in new jersey are grateful to the president for coming to paterson and to wayne and for the rapid and effective response of fema and state and local officials after irene and families who have lost so much.
but any attempt to slow relief to these families is in my view and in the view of governor christie of my state, any attempt to politicize this disaster to advance an ideology at the expense of all that we stand for as a nation is not acceptable. you know, the president said we will do what is necessary to respond. you know, senator lautenberg and i took the same view, and governor christie took the same view. and we don't want to get into the politics of budget debates or whether this should be offset later on. that's a question for later on. the question right now for people who find themselves without a home to knock on that door is: is the federal government, the one that i pay my taxes to, the one that i swear an oath of allegiance to every day, is it going to respond to me now? i did not question the need to respond to tornadoes in joplin,
floods in the dakotas, or terrible consequences of hurricane in louisiana or any other place in this country. and i do not expect that my colleagues now will say no to their fellow americans who need help now in new jersey and in other states along the east coast. it is simply not the american way to not support the funds necessary and deal with the challenges these families have now. so, mr. president, let's keep our eye on the ball. there are families in real need, really struggling in ways that we can't even imagine, and we have a responsibility to put politics aside and do what is right. we have that opportunity very shortly. let us do what is right.
let us get this money to the federal agencies that can help turn around these people's lives. that's the american way. that's the vote that we have later today. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. ms. landrieu: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: i thank the senator from new jersey for adding his strong and powerful voice to this debate. i wanted to just clarify a few points that i think is important for -- for people to understand. first for those that might just be engaging or listening in to this debate, we're going to have a vote in about an hour or so, and if we don't get 60 votes, we will likely not be able to replenish the fema coffers that are virtually empty. the federal fiscal year, to remind everyone, doesn't start january 1. it starts october 1, so we run
on a fiscal year, not a calendar year. we're coming to the end of our year in september, this month, fema has run out of money in the last 11 days, i want to submit for the record, this is just an 11-day count, $387 million worth of projects that have been walted because fema is stretching the few dollars they have left to cover the emergency needs literally of meals and shelter for the people on the east coast. so in other parts of the country where there are jobs under way, rebuilding highways, rebuilding libraries, rebuilding schools, rebuilding sewer systems, water systems, et cetera, those projects have been sent a pink slip basically from washington saying cease and desist. do you know what the worst thing about that is? it's not necessary if we would
immediately act and refill this coffer so these projects can get started immediately, but what's really, really, really bad about this pink slip is that this this $387 million worth of projects, many of these projects have already been done by small businesses, private sector contractors. this isn't money owed to the government. this is money in large measure owed to private small business people or medium sized business people or in some cases large businesses that are in the process of fixing the library. the pink slip in the last 11 days, because of some, you know, ideology here, some sort of party political agenda, they have received a pink slip that says stop work. now, if these companies who have already purchased the lumber or
purchased the concrete or purchased the pipe to build the project don't get paid soon, they will go bankrupt. believe me, i have companies in my state that have gone bankrupt because the federal government is a notorious late payer, even under good conditions. this is not what i would describe as a good condition. this is a terrible condition. so the other side needs to think about the politics of this. this isn't just a moral question. it is a business question. it is a -- it has many dimensions, so you are basically sent a cease and desist order to to $387 million worth of contractors and business people who might not be in new jersey or affected in vermont but are working on a project. they have a work order from the federal government. they are doing the money only to be found out, well, sorry, congress can't decide how to
pay, so good luck trying to make your payroll on friday. this is wrong. the second argument i would like to make to the other side when you're considering the importance and significant vote on this is this -- when the other side says to me, well, we need to budget for it, well, i'd like to budget for it, but i do not have a crystal ball. i think i'm a pretty good senator, but one thing i don't do really well is predict the future. i sometimes have instincts about it, but i'm not a fortune teller. and you would have to be a fortune teller to see what is happening. i'm going to give you this. this isn't mary landrieu's opinion, these are the facts. in 2003, we only needed -- we needed less than $1 billion to fund all disasters. it was a relatively mild year. had we put $2 billion in the budget, we would have had
had $1 billion extra. the next year, it jumped to to $5 billion. the next year, it went up to to $45 billion, broke all records. the next year, it went down to to $12 billion. the next year, it fell to to $8 billion. how are we on the appropriations committee -- danny inouye is a fabulous chairman from hawaii, and thad cochran is a terrific senator from mississippi. but neither thad cochran nor daniel inouye can predict a year and a half out what the disasters are going to be and budget accordingly. so even if you can't motivate yourself -- some people here to vote for people because they need help, just look at the argument on the finances. you really don't know in advance. now, we could set aside some money, maybe more than the the $1.8 billion that we have, i don't disagree there, but we still would have missed it every
year except for two. even if we had put $5 billion in the base budget, we would have still missed it. you just can't predict it. should we set aside $25 billion every year? should we set aside? so the point is when disasters happen, just fund what we have committed to, which is a base benefit package to people. as i said, $2,000. no one is going to get rich off of that, and $30,000 to help people get themselves started. hopefully, their insurance comes in, nonprofits step up to help, they can maybe dig into a little bit of their savings. but this is just as much a jobs bill, it is as much a business bill as it is a bill that's the right, moral thing to do for people, and it is not because democrats don't know how to budget. i am so tired of being lectured on the other side about democrats don't know how to budget. i'd like to remind everyone the last time this budget was
balanced, we had a democratic president. democrats can balance budgets. i was a state treasurer for eight years, and did i a lot to help my state get back on a strong financial footing, and i'm proud of my record and so is every democrat here. it's impossible to predict in advance, so what we could do is let's do what we always do -- send help, help these companies and help these people, put jobs -- put people to work in america, do the right thing, and then over the course of the next six months as our big committee is working, trying to figure out lots of big problems that we have, this is one of them, we can then have time to sit down and figure out based on this reality what should we do. and if anyone has a suggestion, please come to the floor now, because my committee has been talking about this for six months, and i want to say thanks to my cochair, senator coats, who serves with me on the
homeland security appropriations committee. we have been thinking about this for six months. and he voted yes yesterday because he knows there really aren't many good options out there. but can we find a way? yes, mr. president, can we find it this week? no. we might not even be able to find it in the next 30 days, but i'm confident that over the course of the next month and year, we'll find a way to pay for it. but right now, people in new jersey and vermont and louisiana and missouri and minnesota and north dakota don't want to listen to this. they want to tell their kids, yes, we're going to rebuild. they want to tell their employees, yes, we're going to put our business back. they don't need to listen to this, and they shouldn't have to. so i am urging a strong vote at 4:15. again, we have in the last 11 days, i want to submit to the record, $387 million worth of
projects that have been stopped, and every day this list is going to get bigger and bigger, and all this is is another pink slip to someone working at a job, in some ways unrelated to what's going on in the current emergency. they are working on emergencies from three years ago, and now they are being put out of work because of this bullheadedness that is coming from someplace, and i hope we can break through on that today. and again, these pictures are difficult to see but i think it's worth seeing them again. this is what people look like that are listening to this debate. this family sitting on those steps, someone, either they or their neighbor, is going to say did you hear senator landrieu on the floor of the senate or did you hear the senate debate? and why would the senate of the united states be arguing whether we can get aid? aren't we building afghanistan
and iraq and we're not going to build north carolina? i think they are sitting on the outer banks of north carolina thinking what is going on in the united states congress? and people are going to be angry, believe me. and i don't know what you're going to tell them if you vote no on this. you're going to tell them we didn't have the money. you're going to tell them we can't figure out how to budget it. we can figure all that out later. we're going to have to eventually. every bill that we enter into has to eventually be fully paid for, mr. president. you know that. but we don't have to decide that this week. so let's tell them yes, let's do the right thing, and let's get help to joplin, missouri, let's get help to our rural communities that sometimes get very forgotten, let's get help to our folks in north carolina and to our people in texas who have been -- who have suffered terribly over this, and let's do it now. let me just share another quote
that i think is particularly significant. the senator from new york talked about governor bob mcdonald, a conservative republican from virginia. he said fund it now. another republican governor, new jersey, governor chris christie, said let's fund it now, it's not a republican or democratic issue. but i want to read what governor tom ridge, the former governor of pennsylvania and the first secretary of homeland security, a staunch republican, said -- "never in the history of the country have we worried about budget around emergency appropriations for natural disasters, and, frankly, in my view, we shouldn't be worried about it now. we're all in this as a country. and when mother nature devastates a community, we may need emergency appropriations and we ought to just deal with it and then deal with the fiscal issues later on." i m.v.p., he is a very
influential leader in our country and was the first secretary of homeland security. he ran the fema budget. he understands what's at stake. so, please, let's not make this a partisan issue. let's get a strong bipartisan vote. the senate could be very proud of that, and then we'll negotiate these issues with the house. i will work with the house leadership to say there are several ways we could pay for this. we can debate it over the course of the next several months and maybe come up with a new way. i'm not sure -- i know one thing we can't do is take it out of the department of homeland security. our budget would be devastated and it wouldn't be fair to all of the perimeters and the security in our ports and our firefighters to use their money to pay for past or present disasters, but we could potentially find the money
somewhere under some new mechanism, but let's not make the people of the east coast the escape -- the scapegoat and the people of joplin, missouri, and louisiana and the floods that we have just gone through ourselves, and we'll figure out there is time for debate later but the time for action is now. mr. president, i don't see anyone else here to debate. i'd like to yield the floor, but i -- oh, i'm sorry. senator lautenberg, i didn't see you, i'm sorry. the senator from new jersey is here, so let me yield the floor. i thank the senate for their accommodation. mr. lautenberg: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. lautenberg: i ask unanimous consent to be able to speak for up to ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lautenberg: mr. president, i listened carefully to our colleague from louisiana and
note a particular distinction that her state brings, and that is the number of natural disaster problems that state has had and how diligently senator landrieu has fought to make sure that when we have a problem that we ask the government with a clear conscience to do their share in helping us cure the problem that we get. on sunday just past, we marked the tenth anniversary of the september 11 terrorist acts. on that terrible day ten years ago, we were reminded that when tragedy strikes one part of our country, americans pull together to respond. when our enemies and mother nature sends us their worst, americans are at our best. in the wake of recent storms
across the country, including hurricane irene in my state of new jersey, we see and search for the american spirit of cooperation coming through. unfortunately, we learned that the spirit of helping neighbor -- helping neighbors stops with our republican colleagues. we saw a shameful display when all but a handful of republican senators voted to block consideration of an emergency disaster relief bill. they chose not to let our government do its share in curing a problem that enveloped much of the country. they've chosen to use disaster relief victims as pawns in their political games, and we don't make any mistakes, the disaster relief bill is a critical life line to the families who are struggling to pick up the pieces
of their shattered lives after hurricane irene. the early estimates suggest that this violent storm could be one of the ten costliest storms in u.s. history with damages that exceed $10 billion. this is some of the worst flooding in a century, and it is a serious, serious emergency. hurricane irene produced devastating floods in new jersey and other states along the east coast, a major tax tropical stom followed days later causing even more damage, in new jersey alone at least 11 people were killed and countless families were dispaced after their homes were destroyed. president obama has declared the entire state of funeral, all 21 -- new jersey, all 21 counties, a federal disaster area. earlier this month the president
came to new jersey to see firsthand the destruction that hurricane irene has caused. now, i joined him on his tour of paterson, new jersey, my hometown, and one of the cities hit hardest by flooding. we witnessed unforgettable images. the streets and sidewalks were covered in mud, and inside homes -- i saw it personally -- mud covered the second floor of some houses. that's how deep the water got. 14 feet crests, 14-foot crests followed what at times were very tepid streams. walls were stained by high-water marks. the picture shows some of the damage in the city of paterson, perhaps it's difficult to see, but what we're looking at is water, water, everywhere, and it's enveloping homes and
businesses and the community entirely. and paterson is not alone. this is the scene in boonton, new jersey, where you see the road is washed away here. and people can't move from one part of the town to the other. in cranford, new jersey, we see another scene like this. here we have what is -- looks like debris piled up. this debris, mr. president, was furniture. it included beds, it included cribs, it included refrigerators, it includes all kinds of things. people putting their wares out on the front lawn, furniture never to be able to be used again, the houses themselves often not be able to be entered again. and this book shows the damage in bound brook, new jersey. the high level of the water as it compares to the buildings
that are constructed there. with hurricane irene, we witnessed nature's power to destroy, and now it's time to see the federal government's capacity to repair, build, and rebuild, and restore. and even before this hurricane struck, fema's primary source of funding for cleanup and recovery, the disaster relief fund, was barely on life support. the tornadoes and flooding that wreaked havoc across our midwest and south earlier this year along with wildfires and other disasters depleted the funds and that's why in my role as vice chairman of the homeland security appropriations subcommittee, i helped to craft a bill to replenish the disaster relief fund. the appropriations committee approved this bill last week, and the majority leader, harry reid, understood the urgency of
the situation and brought emergency disaster relief funding legislation to the floor right away for us to consider, putting the money into the relief fund so that we can deal with the tragedy that hit so many people in so many places. but yesterday what happened here in this -- in the senate? republicans filibustered our attempts. now, everybody i think across america has learned about what the word "filibuster" means. it means stopping things, blocking things. blocked our attempt to even allow an emergency disaster relief bill to be considered. what kind of foul play is that? they talk about saving money, they talk about cuts. it's outrageous. some of them have claimed that the bill would cost too much. but we all know that the widespread damage that occurred
demands a strong federal response. we've got to provide fema with the resources it needs to help new jersey's people, businesses, communities recover and rebuild from this disaster, but this bill also helps disaster victims in all 50 states, not just the states impacted by hurricane irene. every state has experienced disaster in recent years, and fema is working in every state to help these communities rebuild and recover. so if we fail to pass this bill, every state is going to suffer because if we can't help one state, we can't help any states. and that is an unacceptable condition. the fact is that the victims of hurricane irene and other recent disasters have enough to worry about. they shouldn't have to also wonder if their government is going to stand behind them.
i want to be clear, the federal government plays the critical role in disaster relief efforts. and we have a responsibility to provide funding to help communities rebuild and to make sure that the job gets done well. the federal government for decades has a track record of extending a helping hand to victims of natural disasters. this includes more than $11 billion in emergency funding to help texas, alabama, louisiana, and other states recover from hurricanes and flooding in 2008. last year, we approved more than $5 billion in emergency funding to help states like tennessee and kentucky recover from floods. and people in these states desperately needed our help, and congress responded. we got to do the same thing now. it's really hard to understand
why people on the republican side in the house and in the senate here just don't step up to their responsibilities. and what are those responsibilities? those responsibilities are to protect and secure the safety of our people. without that, the country isn't quite what it should be by a longshot. and we've got to do what we have to now. and as we fight our way out of recession, no time to play politics and penalize people who are struggling. moments like this demand shared sacrifice. we face serious challenges in our country, but can we put a price on a human life and say well, if it costs a lot over there, we're not going to do that to save people? nothing is more important than keeping our families and our economy and our community safe. so i call on my colleagues, put
aside the republican cloak, put aside the savings that we think we can make from avoiding our responsibilities because no money is going to be saved, no money is going to be saved, the cost is going to be there and the misery is going to be extended. so i urge you, let's all join in in approving this bill. few of us, if any, are exempt from the possibility of a disaster in our states. so let's put the politics aside, make sure our first priority is helping people, helping individuals, helping families, helping the communities, and keeping the functions going to permit our society to work. with that, mr. president, i
close out on my comments and with the wonderment that we've seen, with the hard shell, heartless attitude about providing fema with money to repair the results of disaster, is almost incomprehensible. we heard a cry from one of the leaders on the republican side in the house to say well, we first have to find the money to pay for it. like the devil we do. we don't do that when we see forests being ravaged by fire. we don't do it when we're attacked by -- by outside enemies. we don't do it at those times, and mr. president, we ought not to do it now. with that, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire.
ms. ayotte: i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 10 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. shaheen: i have come to the floor to talk about the importance for bet getting help for people hit by disasters. a couple of weeks ago irene came barreling through new hampshire as she came barreling through new york and new jersey and north carolina and so many other states along the east coast. the storm dumped as much as eight inches of rain in parts of new hampshire and the damage to property and infrastructure, especially in the northern part of our state, was significant. the surging waters and high winds destroyed roads and bridges, damaged thousands of homes, left nearly 200,000 without power, devastated businesses and ruined crops.
now, while the devastation was terrible, i want to begin by commending those dedicated first responders and emergency personnel who kept our residents safe and well informed throughout the storm. i'm also grateful for the tireless work of road crews, utility workers, and volunteers from across new hampshire who began helping families and communities rebuild just as soon as the storm passed. their hard work and community spirit are deeply appreciated. for many of the towns who were hit by irene, this is the third major flooding event of the year. it's the seventh in the last two years. and these have been devastating floods. i have a picture here of the town of plymouth. a beautiful community in northern new hampshire where plymouth state university is. and what we can see barely in this section of the picture is
the new ice hockey arena for plymouth state that was just completed about a year ago. beautiful state-of-the-art arena that unfortunately got flooded by these flood waters. and of course we can see other damage to the town. many of the homeowners in the community of conway on the other side of the state, those people who suffered some of the worst damage are elderly and disabled, they're people who are living on fixed incomes who are least able to recover from this kind of disaster. others affected by the disaster are families who are already struggling to cope with difficult economic circumstances. new hampshire emergency spons officials toured conway today, and they talked to our office and told us about the plight of one young family of three.
the father, sadly, was laid off from his job just three days before the storm hit, and his wife, who stays at home and takes care of their 3-year-old, doesn't have a job outside the home, so with his layoff, they've lost their entire income, and now their home is so damaged that they're worried they have no money to rebuild. about being homeless. without fema's assistance, this family could indeed wind up homeless. hundreds in the west lebanon area on the western part of the state across the river from vermont may be out of work for months. peg howard, who owns a boutique gift store, told the valley news, a newspaper that serves lebanon, that she fears damage from irene will put her out of business. as a small business owner, she has no parent cooperation to help her -- corporation to help her recover so assistance from fema and other federal programs may be her only option as she
tries to rebuild her business. peg and the hundreds of others in new hampshire, the thousands across the country who have been devastated, are taxpayers and this is their government. they helped pay for it, their tax dollars help fund our government, including fema. they have the right to expect that fema will be there when they need help. it's not only sad but it's an outrage that some members of congress would deny those people who have been so hard-hit by irene and so many other disasters this year. members of congress would deny them help in their time of need. and for no good reason. the reason is pure, partisan politics. it is plain and simple. even in the best of circumstances, the costs of
irene would be a significant burden for new hampshire to shoulder alone. thankfully, president obama quickly granted governor lynch's request for a major disaster declaration. a number of federal agencies, including fema, are now on the ground providing essential assistance as we begin to restore our state's homes, businesses, roads and utilities. but new hampshire is hardly alone in the need for assistance after hurricane irene and other parts of the country are still rebuilding from disasters earlier this year. such as the devastating tornado in joplin, missouri. soon fema's disaster relief fund, as we've already heard this crave noon, which was already running low prior to the stornl, will no longer have the resources needed to continue meeting recovery needs. in the last two weeks, fema has spent $300 million providing relief to states hit by hurricane irene. less than $500 million remains,
which may not be enough to see us through the end of the month. new hampshire and the other states still recovering from disasters would be on their own if that happens. we can't let that happen. we must act quickly to provide fema with the resources it needs to help our citizens and our towns recover. in northern ne new england we he a limited window to rebuild before winter brings our construction season to a stop. what's more, in new hampshire fall is a critical see soo seasr our tourism industry. we need to rebuild the bridges that irene destroyed, such as this one that's pictured in hart's location. you can see in another couple of weeks this beautiful mountain in the background with all of the green foliage will be turning all sorts of colors because of the fall foliage, and if we
can't fix this road and bridges and the number of other places in shrks we won't be -- in new hampshire, we won't be able to have a tourist season that can bring people to the state and help people whose jobs depend on the tourist industry. any delay in fema assistance over the next few weeks can have a serious effect on the recovery efforts and the hundreds of businesses and their employees who depend on the tourism industry. you know, mr. president, i know you agree with me and with the other senators who have come to the floor this afternoon who believe that natural disasters should be beyond politics and beyond partisanship. the people hurting all across this country aren't democrats or republicans or independents; they're citizens, they're taxpayers. getting them the help that they need demands bipartisan
cooperation. in the proliferate we have listen able to get people -- in the past we have been able to get people the help they need. i urge all of my colleagues to work together address this emergency to provide fema the resources it needs to carry out its mission. this has an immediate, real impact on so many americans and we can't delay. thank you very much, mr. president. i yield the floor. and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
ms. landrieu: madam president, i ask that the quorum call -- are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. ms. landrieu: i'd like to dispense with the quorum. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. landrieu: thank you. i had to slip away from the floor for just a few minutes and i understand that no one from the other side has come down to speak this afternoon. i can't say i blame them, because it's a very tough
position to take. we're getting ready to take a very important vote in just five minutes on whether we're going to provide disaster relief for the country. and particularly for the east coast that's been so terribly hit with hurricane irene an then of course tropical storm lee who came up from the gulf coast. but then it dumped additional rain in an area that was already saturated. we have wildfires in texas, we have the destruction still in joplin, missouri, and places throughout the midwest and the question is for americans in all of these states -- democrats, republicans, and independents and some that are totally unaffiliated with the political process is -- is congress going to help? and our answer today needs to be "yes." we need to fill the fema coffers that are empty.
our fiscal year ends this month, so fema was given a certain amount of money in the earlier part of this year. the end of the year is coming up, madam president, and they're virtually out of money. i submitted only 30 minutes ago to the record, in the last 11 days $387 million of ongoing construction projects for past disasters have been put on hold so that fema can stretch those dollars to make sure that people can eat in the shelters and at least have one set of clothes to wear on -- in other parts of the country. this is unheard of in our nation. we have never, ever gotten so low in our disaster account. now ness a plenty of money in the account -- now there's plenty of money in the account to rebuild iraq. there's plenty of money in the
account to rebuild afghanistan. there's money in accounts for refugee camps all over the world. but the account for americans that are homeless, desperate and without their businesses, their churches, and in some cases their neighborhoods is em? i and members are going to come to the floor today and vote "no"? i strongly suggest a "yes" vote. now, i said the reason we can't budget exactly for these things is because we, a, don't know when they are a he going to happen; we don't even know the amounts of the damage. and, as i have shown in my arguments this afternoon, the amount wildly fluctuates. one year it's zero -- over the last ten years. one year was zero. the next year it was $5 billion. the next year -- one year it was $8 billion. the next year it was $43 billion. so i am saying, no one here -- we're all very good, very
powerful people. but we're not fortune tellers and we don't have crystal balls on our desk. so there's no way we can know. now when people say to me, you don't know exactly but could you budget something? the answer is "yes." we could figure that out. but we don't have to figure that out today. we don't even have to figure 0 this aout this month. we have this supercommittee set up to fix every problem in the world it seems like. we'll just give them another one to work on, because we've been working on this on the appropriations committee for sometime. the white house is engaged. the republican leadership hopefully will get engaged. the democratic leadership is engaged. and we'll figure it out. but now is not the time to let -- to have the victims of these disasters and survivors of these disasters worry about this. we need to refill fema's coffers, refill the corps of engineers that are stretched beyond imagination at this time.
you can imagine the mississippi rirvetion the highest floodings in 50 years occurred this year. now they have got other flash floods all over the country, a bridge here, several bridges there, dams and dikes bursting. one of the governors, i understand, just shut down a major bridge because they found a structural fault. so the corps of engineers has more than they can say grace over. now is not the time to cut their budget. now is the time to give them additional funding and do some reform of the corps of engineers that my people are crying for in louisiana. i think a picture is worth a thousand words. i know we're getting ready to vote, and the leader will come and i guess call for the vote. but a picture is worth a thousand words. these are people that are desperate. i've showed this picture this afternoon. this is joplin, missouri. this is somewhere along the mississippi river and the great flood. how lonely is this?
at least in joplin you can find a neighbor that you can talk to or a group of people worshipped at a church that's gone and you can pray together. this family is isolated, as many of our rural communities. they need to hear a "yes" from us this afternoon. not a "no." here's texas. this just breaks my heart; i think this is north carolina. how sad are these pictures? and they're real, and behind them are thousands of families and businesses. and in addition, if this argument of compassion doesn't move people, maybe the argument of just flat business will move people. and if we're ready for the vote, then i will -- i think the time has come for the vote at 4:15. i'd like to urge my colleagues please to vote "yes" on this motion to proceed. and if we get 60 votes, we can proceed to the disaster bill and figure out how to pay for it some time in the next months ahead. and i thank the chair. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion. we the undersigned senators in
accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate hereby move to bring to a close the debate on the motion to proceed to h.j. resolution 66 a joint resolution approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in the burmese freedom and democracy act of 2003, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is: is it the sense of the senate that debate on the motion to proceed to h.j. res. 66, an act approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in the burmese freedom and democracy act of 2003, shall be brought to a close? the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: i ask unanimous consent to dispense with the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. the senate will come to order. ms. landrieu: madam president, i understand that senator conrad is on the schedule to speak in a few minutes but with his permission i just wanted to say thank you to the members that voted favorably to move forward with the discussion about how to fund disaster relief and to provide this emergency funding. the leader has laid down a very responsible $6.9 billion emergency bill for victims and survivors of the many disasters that our country is struggling with. these numbers were not pulled from the air, these numbers came through the appropriate appropriation committees. i think it is a solid amount to
deal with the emergencies right before us for the next months and perhaps through the coming year. these numbers will be fine tuned as we move forward, but it was a very powerful yes vote for thousands, tens of thousands of people that are waiting for us to say yes to move forward filling the accounts that are now virtually empty, and giving a positive signal to governors, both republicans and democrats, mayors, republicans and democrats, county commissioners, republicans and democrats, that help is on the way and that the federal government is not going and will not turn its back on them at this time of need. so i thank the members. we had a strong vote, 61 votes, we needed 60, we got 61, but it was a strong vote and i'm glad we were joined by several members from the other side and i thank those that said
yes to move this disaster relief forward. and i yield the floor. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. thune: madam president, could we have order. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. the senator from north dakota. mr. conrad: madam president, i come to thank my colleagues as well for this strong vote to move forward on disaster relief. in almost every corner of america, we have had unprecedented natural disasters this year, and my state has not been exempt. i represent north dakota, and we have had flooding unprecedented since records have been kept on the sirrus river that goes through minot, north dakota, the missouri river between bismarck and mandan, north dakota, the place where i
come from. madam president, we have seen absolute devastation. water levels that changed virtually overnight. i can remember the forecast being raised 10 meet from minot, north dakota in a period of 48 hours. a higher water level than we have seen in over 100 years of recorded history. the same is true in the missouri valley basin, with run-off the highest it has ever been. madam president, this has led to incredible flooding. this is a picture from minot, north dakota, where 11,000 people had to evacuate, 4,000 homes flooded. these are middle-class neighborhoods, and virtually no one had flood insurance. there are only 340 or 350 flood
insurance contracts in this entire community of over 40,000 people. madam president, because they had a corps certified levee protecting them, supposed to be good for a 100 year flood, new dams in canada and enhanced in north dakota. we hadn't had a flood, a major flood in 40 years. and madam president, fema is absolutely essential to helping these people get back on their feet. that funding is necessary, but it's not sufficient. anybody that thinks you're going to get well on just fema funding does not understand the fema program. fema was designed to work in conjunction with insurance, homeowners' insurance, flood insurance. but if you have a flood, your homeowner's insurance doesn't cover it, and i can tell you in
a community that didn't have flood insurance or almost no one did, if all you've got's fema, it's important, it's essential, but it's not enough. nobody knows that better than the the senator from louisiana, senator landrieu. i want to say this. i don't think in my entire time here i've ever seen anybody fight more doggedly, more persistently or more effectively for their home state and their home community than mary landrieu did when they were hit with katrina. mary landrieu is a hero, because she would not take no for an answer. i saw it time after time after time in the caucus, on the floor of the senate, in committees, and you know what? she delivered something that those people desperately needed. good for her. and good for the people to have sent somebody here who would
fight for them in their time of need. madam president, i'm here representing a state that has its time of need. because we had thousands of people desperately affected, not as many as as in the state of louisiana, much bigger population there but in my state when 11,000 people are evacuated in one town, that's a big deal. 11,000 people forced out of their homes and they weren't just forced out overnight, over a weekend, they weren't just forced out over a couple of weeks. they have been out of their homes for months, and they're not getting back in their homes until sometime next year. now, that's reality. you talk about a tough reality and what they qualify for with fema and thank god for it because without it, they'd have nothing, is about $30,000. that's it. that's it.
and these are people who have lost homes that were worth $150,000, $160,000, and they had a mortgage on them. what do they do? they're going to get $30,000? do they rehab the home? do they rebuild the home? what do they do? $30,000? when a home has been under water for six weeks, for eight weeks. thousands of homes that had ten feet of water on them for weeks and weeks and weeks, when the water recedes as it has done now, you're left with a pile of muck. i've been there, i've seen it, i've smelled it, and it's not a happy circumstance. madam president, these people deserve some additional help. you know what we did in louisiana? we passed emergency supplemental appropriations for cdbg. and i predict here if that's not
done now in this disaster, these communities will have a difficult time ever recovering. because homeowners' insurance, you're not going to collect on that in a flood. very few people had flood insurance because they thought they were protected by the dams. they're left with $30,000 to recover. it doesn't add up. madam president, we have got to have additional cdbg funding because that's what was used in the floods in north dakota in the 1990's that helped us recover, that's what was used in louisiana to help them recover. that's what's going to be needed here in cases where flooding occurred. madam president, here's the headline from "the minot daily
news." projection: devastation." when they were told the water level was rising as rapidly as it was, there was no time to defend the type. they had levees that were supposed to be good for a 100-year flood but canada lost control of one of its major dams. their provincial leadership told our governor the floodgates are wide open. we've lost control of the dam. and that wall of water is coming your way. and that meant in a short period of time the projections for the height of the water in minot, north dakota, went up 10 feet in 48 hours. there is no way to raise miles and miles of levees ten feet in 48 hours. that's humanly impossible. madam president, what's the result? everywhere you look, flooding.
"minot daily news" headline, "it's a sad day." boy, it was a sad day. crests could be ten feet higher than june 1. in just a matter of days, that wall of water was headed towards this community and they had no time to raise their defenses. and here's the predictable result. madam president, it's minot, north dakota, the downtown, water everywhere. and every residential community in the valley, the business community, you can see in this water, not like a typical flood, the water comes and goes. here the water came and stayed and stayed for days and days and weeks and weeks and months, and it wasn't until just recently that the floodwater receded.
this is a picture, again from that community and you can see in many cases all you see is the rooftops. and again, i want to say to those who might be listening because they need to understand, they need to understand, the fema assistance that we believe is now going to be on its way in our case, some of it's already been received, we deeply appreciate it, is not going to be enough. when you've lost $160,000 house, $30,000 is not going to touch the problem. that is the reality. and the only way that you're going to make a meaningful inroads on that problem for people that didn't have flood insurance through no fault of their own because they thought they were protected by new dams, by a levee, but unfortunately they face
something that's never been seen in history, never been seen in history. these are middle-class families, and their devastated and there are thousands of them. over 4,000 homes destroyed. in a community of 40,000 people. madam president, if we don't get some additional help through additional funding for cdbg, those people's lives will be devastated. that is the reality. we did better for the people in katrina, we did better for the people who were victims of the floods back in the 1990's because we passed emergency supplementals for cdbg to help people who were devastated, who needed a helping hand. we need to do it again. madam president, i'm pleased to say that we have circulated a
letter, have bipartisan signatures on it to the leadership asking for cdbg funding, an emergency basis for the communities not just in my state, but all across the country, the people in joplin who were devastated by a tornado with wind speeds, i'm told now, some of them up to 300 miles an hour. the people who have just been devastated by irene. others who were affected by lee. and others who we can fairly anticipate will be hit as we go through the hurricane season. madam president, we have seen natural disasters, i think natural disasters have now been declared in all the states but two. madam president, we need to, yes,